Removal of previously exempt water abstraction activities – new authorisations


Historically, taking water from the environment for certain uses and from certain sources could be done without an abstraction licence. We called these ‘exempt activities’.

From the 1 January 2018, new regulations came into effect which mean most of these previously exempt activities cannot continue without an abstraction licence in place.

We have created this page to provide easy access to information on applying for an abstraction licence for previously exempt activities. We will be adding more documents onto this site so please keep checking back for what’s new.

Who needs to apply for a licence for a previously exempt activity?

If you are abstracting more than 20 cubic metres on any one day for one of the previously exempt purposes listed below, and your abstraction started before 1 January 2018, you must apply to the Environment Agency for an abstraction licence.

The exemptions that have been removed are:

  • All forms of irrigation including trickle
  • Transfers into managed wetland systems
  • Abstractions within previously exempt areas
  • Transferring water by a navigation, harbour or conservancy authority
  • Abstracting water into and between internal drainage districts
  • De-watering mines, quarries and engineering works
  • Warping (abstraction of water containing silt for deposit onto agricultural land)
  • The majority of abstractions covered by Crown and visiting forces

Why you should apply now

When we receive an application for an abstraction licence, we need to make sure we have all of the information we need – known as making the application valid. We will need to have your valid application by 31 December 2019.

It can take up to 3 months to validate an application, so we suggest you submit your application as soon as possible.

If we do not have a valid application from you by 31 December 2019, you will automatically lose your right to abstract. If you continue abstracting this will be an illegal activity and we may take enforcement action.

If your abstraction is for one of the purposes listed above and started after 1 January 2018, you should already have a licence through the regular application process. If you do not have a licence, you will be abstracting illegally. In this case you should stop abstracting and apply to us for a licence. You can visit our website for an application form and guidance.

Check out the Environmental Agency website for more information here 

Water abstraction newsletter – final countdown October 2019