Water abstraction and impounding
Water abstraction and impounding

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

  • Water abstraction and impounding
  • Prohibition of unauthorised abstraction
  • Prohibition on unauthorised impounding
  • Future developments

Sustainable management of water resources is coordinated by the government, the Environment Agency (EA), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and water companies. Many industries rely on water abstraction to help produce their products and the pressures of droughts and floods can restrict the availability of water. Abstraction and impoundment licensing aims to manage water resources by ensuring sufficient supply and environmental protection. Management is increasingly significant in areas of water 'stress' (eg due to demographic pressures in South East England), and is linked with the time-limiting of licences which aim to allow the regulators to respond more effectively to projected climate change impacts.

Water is abstracted when surface water or groundwater is taken from any source of supply, and includes temporarily or permanently removing water from a source of supply, and transferring water from one source of supply to another.

Source of supply covers:

  1. inland waters (rivers, streams, springs, reservoirs, lakes, ponds and canals) apart from ‘discrete waters’ (lakes, ponds or canals that do not discharge to any other inland waters), and

  2. groundwater, including water contained in wells, boreholes and some excavations, apart from water stored in sewers, pipes, reservoirs, tanks or other underground works

Any person who abstracts more than 20m3 of water a day from surface waters or groundwater, must obtain an abstraction licence from the EA or NRW. The Secretary of