The consultation ran for 12 weeks with a 10 November 2021 deadline for responses.
The NFU encouraged all members who abstract water to respond to the consultation. It was particularly important for farmers and growers to comment on any identified changes to charges that they will be subject to, and the impact of those costs on their businesses.
Why did the EA reviewing abstraction charges?
Charges are used to fund the EA in carrying out its duties for managing water resources.
The underlying principles of the charging regime have remained unchanged for many years and, although individual charges do change from year to year, the EA says that they no longer allow it to fully recover costs it incurs to meet existing demands and future pressures.
Historically, the scheme has been based on charging abstractors relative to the potential effect of their abstractions on the water environment, but the EA wants to shift the focus so that charges better reflect the level and complexity of the services it provides.
What was the NFU's position?
NFU national water specialist Kelly Hewson-Fisher warned that there would be winners and losers within the farming community if and when new charging proposals are implemented in 2022.
"We are still working through the details of the EA's proposals but it looks as if annual abstraction charges could be reduced for many members while application charges for new, varied or renewed licences could increase – in some cases substantially."
The consultation document makes it clear that the special two-part tariff agreement for spray irrigation licences will continue, and this provision will be extended to trickle irrigation licences which are being brought into the licensing system.
The EA is also proposing to retain the 50% reduction in annual charges for farm reservoirs where abstractions are authorised during the winter season only. While continuation of this special arrangement for reservoirs is welcomed, many farmers will be hoping for similar discounts for the abstraction of high-flow surface water at any time of the year.
You can find all the documents relevant to the consultation at the Gov.uk website: Water resources charge proposals from April 2022
NFU members: Download our briefing: Strategic review of abstraction charges