Environment Agency announces changes to abstraction charges


Businesses, including water companies and farmers, must hold a licence to abstract more than 20 cubic metres of water a day from a river, stream, canal or groundwater, and pay charges for this from 1 April 2022.

The new rules have been approved by government and published in the Environment Agency’s response to the review of water resources abstraction charges and the outcome of its consultation.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, commented on the announcement: “The biggest long-term threat to the environment, our economy and our lifestyle is water quantity – simply having enough for people and wildlife.

“In the face of the climate emergency, population growth and rising demand for water, we need to ensure that all those who use water, and rely on it for their business, can continue to do so now and into the future, as well as better protecting our rivers and aquifers.

“As part of this we need a system that allows us to charge fully and fairly for the services we provide to preserve water supplies and help businesses meet their needs in a sustainable way that protects the environment.”

England is facing increased pressure on its water resources due to population growth and climate change.

According to the Environment Agency, significant water shortages in parts of the country have been predicted and some rivers could have between 50 and 80 percent less water during the summer without action by 2050. Based on recent projections, more than 3.4 billion additional litres per day will be needed in England by then, an increase of 23% on today’s supplies.

The new charges – which have not changed for the past 10 years –will be based on:

  • the volume of water taken from the environment
  • where the water is taken from
  • how much of that water is returned to the environment

The new charging framework is set to secure £25 million in additional income each year to protect access to water and meet environmental challenges, including to help protect England’s sensitive habitats, such as chalk streams.

The full consultation outcome is available on the UK Government website.