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News from the turf world

Summary of Defra’s Water Abstraction Plan 2017


Plans for changes to the water abstraction system have been published by Defra and the Environment agency. The plan has been completed following Governments’ response to the consultation in 2006.

Over the next 5 years the activities undertaken include:

·        Reviewing time limited licences

·        Adjusting licences shown to be seriously damaging

·        Revoking unused licences

·        Reducing under-used licences

·        Bringing previously exempt abstractions into licensing

·        Moving licences into Environmental Permitting Regulations

·        Introduce a more modern service, including digital licences

The changes are being introduced to tackle unsustainable abstraction from rivers and groundwater. The priority will be working at a catchment scale and finding solutions at a local level, it is likely the following will be introduced:

·        Controls to protect the environment at low flows

·        Capping licences to prevent increased abstraction damaging the environment

·        Support for rapid water trading

·        Allowing some winter abstractors to take water at the highest summer flows

·        Sharing real-time information on river flows and forecasting changes


What does this mean for TGA members?

Members who already hold a license may see some changes depending on their local area and catchment. An ongoing review of the licences is already in process and in areas where abstraction may be causing environmental damage the Environment Agency may be already in discussion with growers.


Changes to previously exempt abstractors

The process for licencing exempt abstractions (including farmers using trickle irrigation) opened on the 1st January 2018. Application forms can be found here.

·        Farmers and growers will have until 31 December 2019 to apply for a licence

·        Everyone currently operating under and exemption and abstracting more than 20m3/day will need to apply

·        Licences will be determined within three years from the end of the application window

·        Most licences will be granted based on existing volumes used over the last seven years

·        Licences will have conditions to protect the environment during low flows and will initially be issued with time limits

·        Abstractors will be able to continue to take existing volumes during this process until a licence is determined

·        Evidence of historic abstraction amounts will be needed in order to support applications

Catchment approach

Initially the catchment area approach will be piloted in the following:

·        East Suffolk

·        Medway

·        Black Sluice

·        Idle and Torne

Work will begin in April 2018 to trial innovative approaches to abstraction management in these catchments.


The 5 year timeline


Defra's 5 year plan