Government publishes new plan to reform abstraction management

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Access to clean and safe water supplies is essential for people and the environment, however increasing demand for water is putting pressure on supplies.

The government says its new abstraction reform plan will improve better access to water by:

preventing unsustainable abstraction by reviewing existing licences and introducing more controls to protect rivers, lakes and groundwater

developing a strong focus on catchment areas for water bodies to encourage more partnership working between the Environment Agency, abstractors and catchment groups to protect and enhance the environment and improve access to water

modernising the abstraction service to allow online applications for licences and bring water resources regulations in line with other environmental permitting regulations

Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey said:

“The abstraction licencing system is in clear need of reform and I am very pleased to set out how we will do this in our plan. I believe our approach will work for all parties and, most importantly, will protect our precious water supplies.

Our ambition is to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it and we will keep building on our successes by enhancing our environmental standards and delivering a Green Brexit.”

While good progress has been made in recent years, the plan emphasises the importance of the Environment Agency, the water industry and other stakeholders working in partnership at a catchment level to improve and protect the environment and improve access to water.

From January 2018 the Environment Agency will begin to regulate around 5,000 water users that have historically been exempt from regulation. This will create a fairer system and help protect the environment.

The Environment Agency’s work to address unsustainable abstraction should see around 90 per cent of surface water bodies and 77 per cent of groundwater bodies meet the required standards by 2021.

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