8 August 1997

CLA demands cash aid for abstraction losses

CALLS for a nationwide compensation scheme to help farms affected by water abstraction from other businesses and water companies have been made by the Country Landowners Association.

Tony Bailey, CLA director of policy, said this week that farms in the West Midlands and the north west had been particularly badly hit due to over-abstraction by water companies.

Responding to the Department of the Environments questionnaire, part of a review of the abstraction licensing system in England and Wales, Mr Bailey said that farmers had lost cattle and machinery due to the drying out of land.

"One farm on the Staffs/Shrop-shire border, whose peat has dried out, lost stock down huge chasms. While Severn Trent has designed a compensation scheme, we would like to see this expanded," he said. The DoEs questionnaire – part of deputy Prime Minister, John Prescotts, 10-point action plan to cut water wastage – looks at the scope of the licensing system, its environmental implications, and whether a licensing scheme makes economic sense.

Andrew Wells, DoE head of water supply and regulation, said a key aim of the review was to ensure abstraction licensing gave full protection to the water environment while meeting growing demand for water resources.

Recent licences granted by the Environment Agency, replacing the traditional licences of right, have been time-limited. Mr Bailey is concerned that these should not be too short-term, particularly where farmers are being encouraged to fill winter storage reservoirs.

"The capital costs involved mean that a five-year licence is not acceptable. I think 20 years is more appropriate."

Penny Smith, NFU environmental policy adviser, agreed that the new time-limiting licences had caused difficulties, especially to farmers in East Anglia and the eastern counties.

"Farmers have found that their licence renewals have all come up at the same time, creating a backlog which the Environment Agency have struggled to meet."

She said farmers should be compensated where existing abstractions needed to be curtailed. &#42

WATER ABSTRACTION

&#8226 Number of farm licences in England and Wales: 33,753.

&#8226 Amount of water abstracted by farmers a day: 1.22bn litres.

&#8226 Farming responsible for 1% of all abstraction (Industry: 36%).

&#8226 Limit of water abstracted before licence needed: 20,000 litres/day.