Water Abstraction: Licensing

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 7 February 2024.

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Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Independent, Solihull

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether his Department holds data on the number of water abstraction licences that have been issued by the Environment Agency in each year since 2015.

Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The number of new water abstraction licences that have been issued by the Environment Agency (EA) in each year since 2015 is as follows (the data set may not be complete for December 2023):

Year

Number of abstraction licences

2015

931

2016

815

2017

931

2018

815

2019

1357

2020

1014

2021

377

2022

369

2023

536

Grand Total

7145

In addition to issuing new licences, the Environment Agency also processes applications to vary, revoke, reduce, lapse, vest, apportion and transfer abstraction licences. Under the Water Resources Regulatory Regime, as well as abstraction licences the EA also processes impoundment licence applications. In total the EA has processed 13,844 applications since 2015.

The number of water abstraction licences issued each year varies due to the number of time limited licences that are due to expire in each year. If a licence holder wants to continue to abstract water after the date the licence expires, they must apply to the EA to renew the licence.

New regulations came into effect on 1 January 2018 to improve the management of water resources and to ensure protection of the environment. Licensing exemptions that previously allowed the use of water from ground or surface water sources without the need for a licence were mostly removed. This process is known as New Authorisations. Between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2022, the EA issued 1,322 New Authorisations licences. These are included in the table above.

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