20 November 1998

Irrigation licence fees to control use of water

Making more effective use of

available water resources

was the underlying theme at

last weeks Water for

Farming event, staged by

farmers weekly and Fusion

Events at the Newark and

Notts Showground.

Andrew Swallow reports

IRRIGATION licence costs look set to rise and all licenses will eventually be time-limited.

That is the likely outcome of a report from the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions on the licensing system which will allow the Environment Agency to impose tighter controls on water use.

"Currently, charges are limited to cost recovery, which means low charges in practice," said Gwyn Williams of the EAs Water Resources department. A key proposal in the report is to allow charges higher than the EAs costs.

That facility will be used to limit abstractions for environmental reasons and could triple charges for some licence holders. But more flexibility may permit licences to be granted where previously refused. "I have heard growers say they would pay up to three times current charges if they could secure a licence," said Mr Williams.

Flexibility to trade licences is also promised, though export of volumes out of the locality would not be possible.

The loop-hole allowing licence-free abstraction for trickle irrigation is to be closed, possibly as soon as Nov 1999. But growers showing they had used water legally and responsibly for that purpose should have no problems acquiring licences, said Mr Williams.

Exemptions for small volume abstraction will be extended, according to locally imposed thresholds.

New applications will need more supporting information, including an environmental impact assessment, and all licences granted will be time-limited. Permanent licenses will also become time-limited over the next 15 years.

Greater use of the facility to pay compensation is promised in protected and conservation areas where licences are restricted or revoked.

Licence holders liability for financial loss caused by abstraction will be increased from Jan 1, 2000, when holding a licence will no longer constitute a defence. &#42

Higher charges to limit abstractions are definitely on the cards, according to Glyn Williams of the Environment Agencys water resources department.