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  • by Karma Loveday

Environment Agency extends abstraction licence application window by six months

The Environment Agency has issued a six month extension to the window in which previously exempt abstractors can apply for abstraction licences, as required under the 2018 New Authorisations regulations.

Previously exempt abstractors, such as trickle irrigators and some wetland operators, now have until 30 June 2020 to apply for a licence based on their 2011-17 use, rather than current water availability. This is their last opportunity to secure these protected rights; from July 2020 abstraction without a licence will become unlawful and licences will be determined on the basis of water availability.

The agency said: “For many parts of the country, this would rule out abstracting water in the summer months.” It added: “Without a valid application being submitted in this short extension now provided, businesses and wetlands operators will find themselves at the back of the queue for water - and in many catchments that list is already closed.”

The National Farmers Union welcomed the extension. It said the new requirements had been high profile among irrigators and that most affected members had now applied for a licence.

However it raised concern about the awareness of the need to take action among farmers and growers who abstract water within previously ‘exempt geographical areas’; landowners who may need a ‘transfer licence’ to permit the transfer of water between different water bodies; and those who operate ‘managed wetlands’ where it commented: “Although these sites are described as ‘managed’ they need very little active management and many land owners are still unaware that licensing regulations could apply to their use and management of water.”

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