Water resources charge proposals from April 2022 under consultation

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The Environment Agency is seeking views on their proposed charging approach for water resources abstraction and impounding licensing.

In the outline of the new consultation, the Environment Agency states that they want to reform their water resources charging scheme so it’s ‘fairer, works better for business and the environment and is financially sustainable.’

The new proposed 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; and
  • how much of that water is returned to the environment

Environment Agency Chief Executive Sir James Bevan commented: “In the face of the climate emergency, population growth and rising demand for water, we need to protect our rivers, aquifers and the environment; and ensure that those who rely on water for their business or public supply can continue to do so into the future.

“The proposed changes to the Environment Agency’s water abstraction licence charges are designed to do that.

“They will allow the EA to do more to protect our rivers and chalk streams to manage our water resources better for the public, businesses and the environment and to sustain supplies into the future, helping us secure long term water resilience.

“I urge anyone with an interest to take part in this consultation on this critical issue for us all.”

Under the proposals, around 45% of abstractors will see their annual charges decrease and 55% will see an increase. Overall, three quarters (75%) of all abstractors are reported to see either a decrease or an increase of less than £100 in their charges.

New applicants will also see a higher initial application fee, in line with those charged for other permitting regimes.

The changes are set to benefit the environment by enabling the Environment Agency to invest more in upgrading infrastructure assets to move water around the country, using data to improve local management of water resources and protecting water-stressed catchments such as chalk streams.

Those affected will also receive a letter from the Environment Agency this week.

The Environment Agency issues water abstraction licences to allocate water and to manage water resources. They get funding for this from abstraction or impounding licence charges.

The Environment Agency reports to have not increased charges for 10 years, except for one change to the application fee.

During this time, the work and cost to manage water resources has increased. The Environment Agency reports that they are not fully recovering costs for the water resources service they need to provide.

The proposed changes to the charging scheme will ‘increase their income and help them manage water better.

According to the Environment Agency, the changes will:

  • mean better access to water and security of supply for the public and business.
  • make their charges fairer for their customers.
  • mean they can invest more in their assets to make sure they are safe, effective, cost-efficient and resilient.
  • allow them to better monitor water so it’s available for their customers when they need it.
  • enable them to modernise the regulatory regime and provide better digital services for our customers.
  • help them to protect and enhance the environment using a more sustainable approach to water abstraction – in particular for rare and sensitive habitats.
  • mean they can better prepare for protecting the environment, businesses and the public during prolonged dry weather.

The Environment Agency and Defra published a joint Water Abstraction Plan in 2017 setting out the planned reforms for water abstraction management over the coming years.

It set out how plans will reach sustainable levels of abstraction, develop a stronger catchment focus and modernise the abstraction service.

The Government will consult later this year on plans to streamline the overall environmental regulatory framework for abstraction licensing in England to create a ‘modernised, flexible system for all.’

This consultation closes at

All those who abstract water from the environment, including water companies, farmers, local authorities and other organisations, are encouraged to take part in the consultation. The new charging scheme will then be implemented from 1 April 2022.

More information about this consultation and how to take part is available on the Environment Agency consultation website.