Heatwave abstractor guidance and Environment Agency contacts

18 July 2022

An image of water being sprayed across crops in a field from irrigation equipment

We're speaking directly with the EA (Environment Agency) regarding the prolonged dry spell and the EA has issued guidance on abstraction.

With record temperatures recorded this July, and Met Office forecasts showing very little rainfall across the country through to 9 August, if you're concerned about water availability, you should contact the EA (Environment Agency) in your local area.

You can find contact details for your local area here: EA dry weather contacts

With peak demand for field vegetables and soft fruit, and grass growth also being impacted, each case will be assessed individually by the EA with regard to the local water availability situation. The EA has a legal obligation not to allow deterioration.

NFU water resources specialist Kelly Hewson-Fisher said: “Many abstractors already have restrictions in place due to the Hands off Flow (HoF) restrictions on their abstraction licences. The EA is encouraging all abstractors to take extra precautions to take water wisely and efficiently.”

“In 2018, the EA approved emergency trading conditions, i.e. trading of licence volume between abstractors. These have not been agreed for 2022 at this point. 

“The concern from the EA is that the approval for the 2018 trading was available as a one off and not a regular activity. We're asking for emergency trading on behalf of farmers and growers and are continuing our discussions with the the EA regarding these conditions."

EA guidance

The EA has issued guidance for abstractors, which includes:

  • If you can reduce your abstraction quantities, please do so.

  • Where possible, take water from winter storage reservoirs and/or groundwater instead of direct from the river or surface water source.

  • Avoid irrigating during the hottest parts of the day.

  • Spray at night or cooler times of the day.

  • Check your irrigation equipment is working correctly and spraying where you need it.

  • Follow your licence conditions and advice from EA staff.

Next steps

We can expect to see more EA communications and increased monitoring in the weeks ahead.

The EA is providing two weekly dry weather briefings to other regulators and members of the NDG (National Drought Group), which the NFU is part of.

You can read more about our involvement in NDG meetings here: Dry weather information and advice | National Drought Group meetings


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