Defra and the Welsh Government have published a joint response to the consultation on changes to water abstraction licencing exemptions that will take effect from January 2018. There is no change to the licencing threshold of 20 m3 per day, but there are about 5,000 significant abstractions that are currently exempt from licencing, about 20% of the total abstractions, who will now require a licence.
Abstractors who are above the 20 m3/day threshold, will have two years from January 2018 to apply for their licences. Abstractors will need to provide sufficient evidence of historic abstraction to support a valid application, otherwise they will need to apply via the standard licensing process. Evidence could include meter readings, pump ratings, calculations of abstracted quantities, invoices for equipment, photographs of infrastructure, or business receipts and contracts. Licences will normally have ‘hands off flow’ conditions to protect rivers during low flows and times of drought, and there may be some other restrictions in some cases.
It is expected that abstraction will only be curtailed or refused where there is a serious risk of damage to the environment, and in these circumstances compensation may be payable through the Environmental Improvement Unit Charge (EIUC) which is collected from all abstractors as part of the charges.
There are some new exemptions for low risk abstractions and impoundments including abstraction connected to authorised dredging operations, impounding work by Internal Drainage Boards.
More detailed guidance on applications for licences for previously exempt abstractions will be available from the CLA shortly.