Water Abstraction Legislation signals big changes

14th March 2018

The law surrounding water abstraction has recently changed, which is expected to have a huge impact on quarry, mine and construction operators.


Under the rules of the Water Resources Act 1991, operators must now hold a formal licence to legally abstract over 20m3/day for activities that were previously exempt. This includes:

  • dewatering of mines,
  • dewatering of quarries,
  • engineering works; and
  • all forms of irrigation.

The changes to the Act is part of the government backed initiative to manage our water resources more effectively and reduce impact on the environment.

“It’s a major shakeup for construction and mining firms as any new license required can take up to four months to secure,” said Andrew Rollo, Head of Energy at land, property and business Group George F. White. “Our team is working with several large and small operators, guiding them through what they need to do and by when so that existing and planned abstraction projects are not affected. Any legal delays can have massive implications for planned projects, at the operator’s expense. We aim to avoid this and ensure applications for the new licence are completed in a timely manner, and operators are fully aware of what is expected of them legally, to avoid unnecessary costs.”

For existing abstraction operations, the Environment Agency has set up transitional arrangements which aim to grant the majority of licences based upon existing requirements. This transitional period runs for two years, from 1 January 2018 until the 31 December 2019. To apply under these transitional arrangements, operators will need to demonstrate the validity of their abstraction requirements and that abstraction has taken place within the previous seven years.

To discuss the changes to legislation in more detail, and how it affects your current projects, please contact Andrew Rollo on andrewrollo@georgefwhite.co.uk or alternatively call 01665 603 231.

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