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Usable water everywhere. Do you need a Water Abstraction Licence?

So What’s a Water Abstraction Licence and Who Needs to Apply for One?

Water Abstraction Licence River

It’s hard to remember a time when water was splashed across the headlines as frequently as it has been recently. Floods, droughts, plastics, day zero, nationalisation, privatisation, open market, self-supply…  Water is one hot topic. But there’s one subject that hasn’t been making waves – and it needs to.

The Water Abstraction Licence. It doesn’t sound particularly exciting. Indeed, it’s not particularly exciting – at least not in the context of front page news – but businesses across the UK could find themselves on the receiving end of the wrong kind of headline if they don’t sit up and take notice.

In January this year, the government launched an overhaul of its approach to allowing businesses to abstract water directly from groundwater, rivers or tidal flows. Under new regulations, the Environment Agency will make full use of its existing powers to review and amend abstraction licences. The goal is to better protect the environment, adapt to the pressures of increasing water demand and climate change in the long term, to raise standards and to modernise the current (paper-based) service.

Until now, many businesses have been regarded as licence-exempt. But this will not be the case moving forward: any operation taking more than 20,000 litres of water a day directly from surface or groundwater sources now requires an abstraction licence to remain on the right side of the law. Lifting exemptions relating to purpose and geography, government officials say, will ‘bring all significant abstraction under regulation and create a fairer system where no group of abstractors will be able to expand at the cost of another group, or the environment’.

This seems fair and reasonable  and we expect a  risk-based approach, prioritising the licences that are likely to have the greatest impact. The plan is to take a catchment focused approach, bringing together the Environment Agency (or Natural Resources Wales), abstractors are for the and catchment groups to develop local solutions to existing pressures and to prep future by reducing the impacts of abstraction and improving access to water by introducing more flexible conditions that support water storage, water trading and efficient use. Lawful abstractions are only likely to be significantly curtailed or refused if serious damage to the environment is at stake.

For water-intensive industries and those operating in water-scarce catchments, it’s time to get involved.

Water Abstraction Licence applications must be made within the two year window between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2019 and we understand that there is to be no extension to this deadline. Furthermore, there will be no restrictions on abstractions (provided they are in line with previous quantities extracted until December 2017) while applications are reviewed and new licences issued.

Enforcement action may be taken in the event of non-compliance with the requirements and timescales of this initiative. And, if that wasn’t incentive enough, perhaps consider the sustainability benefits that your organisation could achieve by taking a proactive approach to abstraction, hand-in-hand with water conservation measures (in the form of greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting, for example).

Find out more at: gov.uk/environment-agency

Or get in touch with us and we’ll guide you on a multi-faceted approach to saving water consumption and cost.