The water company pled guilty to 35 separate incidents at Newport Magistrates Court yesterday (September 22) and received fines relating to activity on the River Usk between May 16 and July 2011 under section 21 (1) of the Water Resources act in a breach of its licence.

As a result, the company was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs, plus a £15 victim surcharge.

Welsh Water has a licence to abstract a maximum of 318,220cu m a day from the river, depending on river flow. However, in one of the incidents, Welsh Water exceeded its water license by 683% when it over-abstracted large volumes of water at its Prioress Mill pumping station. While on another occasion more than 50% of the river’s flow was abstracted.

According to the Environment Agency Wales (EAW), in total there were seven separate occasions on which abstraction should not have taken place at all and 28 days on which over abstraction took place.

A spokesperson for EAW said: “Our licences balance the needs of people and the environment and wildlife – the Usk is a prime river for salmon and sea trout – and we have limits in place designed to make sure there is enough water for their migration upstream whilst protecting water supplies.

“In this case, these limits were ignored and the environment was put at risk – and we will not hesitate to take action against these breaches of this kind.

“Last year, when we were potentially seeing some parts of Wales reaching drought conditions, the company were at times taking half the flow of the River Usk when they should not have been abstracting.”

Welsh Water apologised for the calculation failures, but said it did not breach its annual abstraction limit.

Speaking to edieWater, a spokesperson for Welsh Water said: “We are sorry this breach occurred – it was a mistake and not the result of a deliberate wish to breach our abstraction licence.

“We have now installed a fail-safe system to ensure that mistakes about how much we can abstract from the Usk on any one day cannot recur.”

Carys Matthews

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