Water Industry News

Environment Agency To Review Abstraction Charges

The Environment Agency has announced that it will be carrying out a review of abstraction charges to help protect the environment and safeguard water supplies for the future, as England faces increasing pressure on resources because of population growth and climate change.


Recent projections show that over 3.4 billion litres a day will be needed in the country by 2050, representing 23 per cent more than supplies currently required – and if action isn’t taken, parts of the country will be at risk of significant water shortages.


In order to help support water management and protect resources for the future, a review of the way businesses are charged for abstraction licences is now being carried out, with new charges set to be proposed, based on where the water is taken from, the volume of water being abstracted and how much is then returned to the environment.


Currently, all organisations must have a licence to take over 20 cubic metres a day from rivers, streams, canals or groundwater. If the proposals are pushed through, approximately 45 per cent will see a drop in annual charges, while 55 per cent will see an increase. Higher initial application fees will also be seen for new applicants.


Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “In the face of the climate emergency, population growth and rising demand for water, we need to protect our rivers, aquifers and the environment, and ensure that those who rely on water for their business or public supply can continue to do so into the future.


“The proposed changes to the Environment Agency’s water abstraction licence charges are designed to do that. They will allow the [agency] to do more to protect our rivers and chalk streams; to manage our water resources better for the public, businesses and the environment, and to sustain supplies into the future, helping us secure long term water resilience.”


Earlier this year, the Environment Agency announced that businesses across the Norfolk Broads will see changes made to their water abstraction licences, saying that it will either revoke, reduce or constrain those used by 20 organisations in the Ant Valley – a region that is facing significant pressure on water resources.


Evidence shows that current abstraction levels could possibly be damaging the local environment, with this new strategy intending to bring abstraction back to sustainable levels. It’s hoped that by doing this, up to three billion litres of water will be returned to the natural environment each year.


Chief executive of Nature England Marian Spain commented on the move at the time, saying that it will also help aid the recovery of numerous habitats, which are home to over 350 priority species of birds, insects and plants.


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