Deadline looms for government water consultation

Just one week remains for farmers to respond to a government consultation and help ensure agriculture gets its fair share of water.

Water abstraction and irrigation rules face their biggest overhaul for the more than 50 years under plans contained in the DEFRA and Environment Agency consultation. The deadline for responses to the document is 28 March.

Bidwells farm business consultant Ian Ashbridge urged farmers to make their voices heard. “This is agriculture’s chance to influence how much water is available in the future – and how farmers can access it,” he said.

Some proposals had the potential to benefit agriculture, he added. Ideas included allowing farmers to trade rights to water within catchment areas. But other proposals were more of a threat, including the power to revoke unused abstraction licences without compensation.

“We see a number of advantages for farming businesses that are able to capture water either through reservoirs or because of where they are situated within a catchment,” Mr Ashbridge said.

“There are a lot of interesting ideas. We support the idea of farmers capturing water – linking abstraction to available flows. This could give farmers the flexibility to take more water during high flows and store it so they take less water during low flows.”

But he warned: “The possibility of revoking unused abstraction licences without compensation is quite a serious issue.

The consultation document is available online


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