The NFU is urging farmers and growers who have been lawfully abstracting water outside regulatory control to submit an abstraction licence application without delay.
Although licences for the purposes of ‘spray irrigation’ operations have been in place for many years, irrigation by trickle and drip methods has fallen outside the regulation so that an abstraction licence has not been required – until now.
NFU water specialist Paul Hammett said that when introducing the new rules, the government made it clear that it recognises previously exempt activities as lawful. It has therefore put special provisions in place to make it easier than usual for those needing to apply for a licence.
But the application window closes soon.
Paul Hammett said; “These special provisions for licence applications apply only during the current transitional period which ends on 31 December 2019."
“Applications must be submitted to, and be validated by, the Environment Agency by that deadline. Since the Environment Agency says it could take up to three months to validate a licence application after submission, it recommends that applications should be submitted by 1 October.”
Growers who apply water to crops by trickle and drip methods are probably the largest, but by no means the only, group of NFU members affected by the changes. The following previously exempt activities can no longer continue without an abstraction licence, which must be applied for without delay:
- All forms of irrigation including trickle irrigation
- Abstractions within previously ‘exempt geographical areas’
- Transfer of water by a navigation, harbour or conservancy authority
- Transfer of water into and between internal drainage districts
- Dewatering mines, quarries and engineering works
- Warping (abstraction of water containing silt for deposit onto agricultural land)
- Abstractions for managed wetland systems and water level management plans
- Most abstractions operated by The Crown and visiting forces, and the Ministry of Defence
For all these previously exempt activities, an abstraction licence will be required where the abstraction exceeds 20 cubic metres (4400 gallons) per day. Where this daily threshold is never exceeded, then a new licence should not be required.
The NFU has produced a guidance note for members. NFU members can download the briefing - New abstraction licensing requirements for historical users of trickle/drip irrigation - here.
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The regulatory process surrounding ‘new authorisations’ can be complicated and members should seek further information from the Environment Agency, available online, which explains how to apply for a new abstraction licence for a previously exempt abstraction.
For help with completing the application forms and for general information and guidance, phone the Environment Agency hotline on 03708 506506 or write to ZW5xdWlyaWVzQGVudmlyb25tZW50LWFnZW5jeS5nb3YudWs=
In order to safeguard existing rights of access to abstracted water, members should always consider seeking professional help and support.
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