Abstraction and impoundment licences—applications and determinations
Abstraction and impoundment licences—applications and determinations

The following Environment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Abstraction and impoundment licences—applications and determinations
  • When is an abstraction licence needed?
  • When is an impoundment licence needed?
  • Applying for a licence
  • Determining a licence application—procedure
  • Determining a licence application—considerations
  • Varying a licence
  • Revoking a licence
  • Transferring a licence
  • Apportioning water abstraction rights
  • more

When is an abstraction licence needed?

Any person who abstracts more than 20 cubic metres (4,000 gallons) of water per day from surface waters (river, stream, lake, pond, reservoir, canal, spring, dock, channel, bay) or groundwater, must obtain an abstraction licence from the Environment Agency (EA) or Natural Resources Wales (NRW).Water Resources Act 1991, ss 27, 27A

A licence is not required for:

  1. abstractions of 20 cubic metres or less a day, provided the abstraction is part of a single operationWRA 1991, s 27

  2. some land drainage, flood protection, mining, quarries and engineering operationsWRA 1991, s 29

  3. use on ships or boatsWRA 1991, s 32(1)

  4. fire flightingWRA 1991, s 32(2)

On 15 January 2016, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Welsh Government, the EA and NRW published a joint consultation on Changes to Water Abstraction Licensing Exemptions in England and Wales—New Authorisations. The consultation proposed that the following previously exempt activities should be brought into the licensing system and require a New Authorisation:

  1. water transfers by navigation, harbour or conservancy authorities

  2. abstraction of water into internal drainage districts

  3. dewatering mines, quarries and engineering works

  4. all forms of irrigation and the use of land drainage systems in reverse to maintain field water levels

  5. abstractions in exempt areas

  6. abstractions covered by Crown and visiting forces exemptions

The New Authorisations consultation overlapped with another paper in January 2016 outlining the government's proposals for reforming the water abstraction management system in England and Wales. See UK Government response to consultation on reforming the Water Abstraction Management System. Defra and the Welsh Government published a summary of responses to