Farmers urged to check abstraction licences fit for purpose

Farmers should carry out a health check on their abstraction licences to ensure they are fit for purpose as the 2018 cropping season comes to an end, says the NFU.

The Environment Agency (EA) has recently published its updated regulatory position on the licence flexibility available to irrigators and agricultural abstractors, which has prompted the NFU’s warning.

The NFU has welcomed the news that the EA is keeping its range of flexibility options under review, especially since the prolonged dry weather period in some areas could continue into winter.

To read the EA’s revised position statement, head to the summary on the NFU’s website.

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Paul Hammett, NFU water specialist, said: “Predictions of drought and water scarcity in 2019 would clearly be premature, but the NFU will maintain regular contact with the EA through the winter to review its regulatory position.

“It’s definitely good practice for abstractors to think ahead by forward planning with the benefit of what we learned this year.”

There are a number of ways in which licences can be changed, sometimes with fairly minor licence variations approved by the EA that could benefit farmers during times of water scarcity, such as:

  • Reviewing the “hands-off flow conditions” on licences more frequently, which will allow farmers to take advantage of any peak flows when significant rainfall occurs.
  • Identifying fast-track water trades and access to additional water with other parties by getting those arrangements pre-approved before they are needed.
  • Extending reservoir filling seasons to permit abstraction outside the normal winter filling period.
  • If necessary, consider “borrowing” groundwater from future allocations.
  • Checking the licence terms. Do the daily volumes, abstraction point and calendar dates for abstraction still fit with how the licence is actually used?

Farmers who would like to explore these and other options should contact the EA through the local area office or the National Customer Contact Centre on 03708 506 506.