Water Abstraction Reform

Water Abstraction Reform

In December 2017 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published a plan to reform water abstraction management in England.

The plan includes three key reforms:

  1. Developing a stronger focus on catchment areas;
  2. Addressing unsustainable abstraction; and
  3. Including water abstraction and impoundment licensing in the Environmental Permitting regime (the “EP regime”).

In order to achieve these three reforms, the plan sets out various actions that will be taken to achieve the aims. These are briefly summarised below.

Actions to develop a stronger focus on catchment areas

  • Capping of licences.
  • Sharing real-time information on river flows and forecasts to help abstractors plan their water use.
  • Introducing controls in licences to protect the environment.
  • Supporting rapid water trading where needed to allow abstractors to share access to water quickly.
  • Ensuring the use of surface water and groundwater sources is utilised to make best use of available water.
  • Managing water discharges.

Addressing unsustainable abstraction

  • A review of time-limited licences will be carried out, adjusting them as necessary so that they do not allow environmental damage now or in the future.
  • Revoke unused licences that are no longer needed.
  • Adjust all permanent licences shown to be seriously damaging to the environment.
  • Work with abstractors to reduce under-used licences.
  • An update to all licencing strategies to be completed by 2027 to capture agreed solutions to environmental pressures.
  • Remove all significant abstractions that have, historically been exempt based on purpose and geography.

Actions to bring abstraction and impoundment into the EP regime

DEFRA expect to initiate a consultation in 2019 to identify the requirements so that water abstraction and impoundment are moved into the EP regime.

In addition to this, the Environment Agency are also planning to consult on abstraction charges following the move into the EP regime.

Please contact us if you have any questions on the proposed reforms. 

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.