CLA South East is urging Government to ensure that farmers and landowners have access to the water they need to continue producing food for the UK.
Responding to a Government consultation, CLA said the proposals to shake up the water abstraction licence system – how Government permits the extraction of water from rivers, lakes and other water bodies – should exclude agriculture from the regime.
CLA Director South East Robin Edwards said: “The Government’s proposals must guarantee food businesses have secure access to water if essential food security is to be maintained. A system that restricts the ability to abstract water during very low river flows could harm crops, fruit and vegetables and hinder food production. Agriculture represents less than one percent of the total licensed volumes of water in the UK, and should be removed from the abstraction regime.
“Landowners are playing an important part in the wider picture of improving UK water security, but restricting their access to water through abstraction could harm food production. We need a long term water management plan in place to protect from flooding while also improving water security.”
The CLA said the proposal to automatically revoke unused abstraction licences could also cause serious problems for the agricultural industry.
Mr Edwards said: “Food businesses have strategic reasons as to why licensed volumes of water may not be fully used, for instance excessive rainfall or crop rotation. Abstractors must first be given the chance to justify their need for water, and if the decision to revoke a licence is maintained, there should be the option to sell or transfer it.
“Licences and the right to abstract water are a valuable asset and underpin the capital value of land and farming businesses, therefore compensation should be given if they are removed in order to prevent the decline of UK food businesses.”