Agency proposes price increase for water abstraction

The Environment Agency has published proposals to increase the cost of abstraction licences in order to create a fund to protect water sources.

The fund would mostly be used to revoke historical rights to water where the abstraction is causing damage, and compensate abstractors whose rights are revoked.

Head of Water resources at the Agency, Ian Barker, said: “In some places, water abstraction is damaging the environment, including natural habitats which are of international conservation importance. The only way to prevent or reverse damage, and sustain these valuable river and wetland sites for the future, will be to stop or limit damaging water abstraction.”

The proposals would lead to greater protection for many areas of river and wetland, which would in turn lead to wider environmental benefits.

Around 27,000 abstraction licences are currently in force in England and Wales, ranging from large volume abstraction public water supply companies to licences for small agricultural holdings.

Initially, the Agency is proposing an increase in licence fees of between 8 and 10% per year over the next four to five years. A premium is also proposed to be applied to abstraction licences which are currently open-ended.

The increase would apply from April 2006, the same date as the new charges resulting from the Water Act 2003, which require some previously exempt types of abstraction, such as trickle irrigation, de-watering of mines and abstraction relating to managing navigation, to be delicensed.

Together the measures would raise an additional £85 million.

David Hopkins

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