New website launched for the Reservoir Safety Reform Programme

08 February 2024

Environment and climate
A photograph of a reservoir and the surrounding green landscape covered in trees.

A new online platform has been introduced for the Reservoir Safety Reform Programme by Defra and the Environment Agency.

In a Written Ministerial Statement in July 2022, the Government unveiled its intent to revamp reservoir safety management practices and modernise the Reservoirs Act 1975.

The initiative is a response to the suggestions outlined in the Independent Reservoir Safety Review Report authored by Professor Balmforth.

The recently debuted website includes details about the motives behind these changes, and the intended series of reforms. We encourage members with an interest to invest time in informing themselves with the most up-to-date information on the website.

Programme aims:

  • Enhancing the roles and responsibilities of reservoir owners, operators, engineers, and the overseeing body (Environment Agency).
  • Improving safety practices, focussing on enhancing skills, resources and training across the reservoir community.
  • Modernising regulations and safety administration techniques to establish a robust and proportionate safety regime.
  • Collaborating with stakeholders to help shape the strategy and deliver reforms.

The government has said it will be taking a proportionate risk-based approach to safety requirements when shaping the new reforms with the aim to reduce risk to life to as low as reasonably practical.

Reforms being considered include:

  • Developing a new risk/hazard classification and looking at how it could operate.
  • Improving enforcement options using civil sanctions.
  • Developing proposals for a proportionate charging scheme to improve recovery of regulatory costs.
  • Developing proposals for regulating small, raised reservoirs within the new safety regime - for consultation.

On small, raised reservoirs - the government is considering whether reservoirs which are between 10,000m3 and 25,000m3 in volume and that are currently unregulated, should be brought into the Reservoirs Act 1975, an action which has already occurred in Wales.

We are aware any changes could have implications for members and the NFU will be in active discussion with Defra and the Environment Agency throughout the programme’s development and consultation process.

The programme will be delivered over several years and the changes will be introduced via a blend of guidance, secondary legislation and new primary legislation, pending the availability of parliamentary time. Reservoir safety policy is devolved, so this programme is focused on England only.

Towards the end of the year, a documented public consultation will be conducted to contribute to the formation of secondary legislation anticipated to be implemented in 2024. These alterations will concern several modifications achievable through the Reservoirs Act of 1975.

Defra has also launched a survey through the website designed to aid the identification of small, raised reservoirs across England. This survey is accessible to all, and participation is voluntary.

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This page was first published on 15 August 2023. It was updated on 08 February 2024.

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