Water abstraction licensing changes from 1st January 2018

Changes in water abstraction licensing for previously exempt activities have been finally agreed following many years of debate.

The changes will come into force on the 1st January 2018. The aim of the changes are to

  • ensure a fairer system for all abstractors – both licensed and those to be licensed
  • enable the regulator to manage water resources more effectively against a situation of increasing pressure
  • implement further aspects of the Water Framework Directive.

Industry sectors impacted by the new changes include quarry dewatering, and abstraction for irrigation as well as for internal drainage boards (IDBs), although IDBs have retained some exemptions.

A two-year transition window will commence once the regulations come into force. Current exempt abstractors have two years to apply for licences. The Environment Agency (EA) or Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Regulator will determine all applications within three years from the end of the two year application period. There is no additional guidance on the level of information required but it is common to have to undertake surveys and assessment over a whole water year cycle. Therefore, it is wise to start the application process early in a planned manner, especially as some surveys, such as for macro-invertebrates, are seasonal.

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