New water laws could swamp landowners

New legislation over reservoir and lake management could drown landowners in more red tape.

The Flood and Water Management Bill, expected to be introduced to Parliament this month, is likely to burden landowners with onerous and expensive annual surveys and record keeping responsibilities, says rural surveyor Alice Berryman of Savills.

“Previously the management of small reservoirs, with a maximum holding capacity below 25,000m3, was relatively simple, but this proposed legislation will require anyone with a reservoir or lake larger than 10,000m3 to register with the Environment Agency and comply with a long list of demands.”

These include liasing with the local authority to draw up an “on-site plan” in case of flood, revising it every year, and reporting incidents. A supervising engineer must be employed to inspect and report on the reservoir’s condition annually, and an independent inspecting engineer must to do the same every 10 years.

“Landowners will have to implement any recommendations made by the inspecting engineers, and keep continuous records of site condition and inspection, to try to protect against any liability which may arise,” says Miss Berryman. “Of course, the risk of liability increases if a third party obtains planning permission on the reservoir flood plain.”

The Environment Agency is likely to implement a risk-based assessment method when establishing which reservoirs require its oversight, which could reduce the management burden imposed on low-risk reservoirs over 25,000m3. “However, those responsible for smaller but higher risk reservoirs may see their time and costs increase,” she adds.

“Reservoirs and lakes play an important role on many farms and estates, providing water for crop irrigation and opportunities for sporting enterprise, as well as amenity use for the general public. This new legislation will mean up to 5000 of these will now come under the legislative eye of the Environment Agency, compared to just 2000 under the current system.”

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