Since 1974 controls on industrial effluent dischargers in the United Kingdom have increased significantly. The Water Act 1989 transferred the Water Industry in England and Wales to the private sector and created a National Rivers Authority. A mechanism to control the input of dangerous and harmful substances into the aquatic environment was established which requires Water Service Companies (WSCs) to refer to the Secretary of State for the Environment before granting consents for discharge to public sewer.

The Environmental protection Act 1990 (EPA) further increased regulation and established the principle of Integrated Pollution Control (IPC). Operators of industrial processes listed under the Act are required to obtain authorisation from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP) (HMIPI in Scotland) before they can operate the process.

The complexity of legislation and regulation is described and practical difficulties experienced when implementing the controls are examined, as are the relationships between the main environmental regulators together with their relative responsibilities. Also discussed are the costs associated with licensing and effluent disposal.