5 December 1997

Water licences in short supply

COMPETITION for water is going to get tougher for farmers in the face of an anticipated 12% increase in demand from consumers over the next 20 years, while resources are set to drop by 10% in the same period.

And the message from Environment Agency bosses, speaking at a farm reservoir conference in Lincolnshire, was that the overwhelming majority of future summer abstraction licence applications would be refused, leaving producers with only winter licences.

Junior farm minister Elliot Morley said farm storage reservoirs could play a key role in irrigating crops, particularly as demands for irrigation water were set to rise by more than 45% over the next generation.

Irrigation options

He advised farmers to look at every option to meet future demand for irrigation water. "Various management initiatives, such as pooling of abstraction licences by groups of farmers, reallocation of resources through tradeable permits, incentive charges to control demand or enabling farmers to buy out water rights could provide farmers and growers with greater flexibility," he said.

Graham Wilson, Environment Agency regional water resources manager for East Anglia, said the agency received 1500 applications for either new abstraction licences, or substantial variations to existing ones, from the farming community each year.n