31 March 1999
Farmers face new water rules
By FWi staff
FARMERS who abstract water from rivers, lakes and aquifers face more stringent rules and regulations which were unveiled by the government this morning.
A package of measures to protect the environment will mean all future abstraction licences will be time-limited, generally to a maximum of 15 years.
Announcing the changes in central London, Environment Minister Michael Meacher said a time limit would also be placed on most existing licences.
We have to think less of water to be taken for granted, and more of water to be taken responsibly, he said.
The changes, which are in line with consultation proposals published last summer, will bring nearly all water abstractions and transfers under some form of control.
Within 13 years, they will bring to an end compensation for farmers whose licenses are revoked for causing environmental damage through water abstraction.
The will also remove the protection from liability of farmers who cause environmental damage and financial loss to others through water abstraction.
Many of the improvements will depend on changes to legislation which the government intends to introduce when parliamentary time allows.
But the Environment Agency has already urged ministers to grant it new powers as quickly as possible.
Dr Giles Phillips, the agencys head of water resources, said:
At present our control over abstractions is cumbersome and inflexible and in some locations the environment is suffering as a result.
Important conservation sites are being damaged by over-abstraction and some wildlife habitats are coming under increasing pressure.
The agency believes the proposals will assist its attempts to manage water in a more sustainable way in the face of increasing demand and global warming.
Industries other than agriculture could be greatly affected because farming currently accounts for only about 6% of all water abstracted.