On the 1st January 2018 changes to the abstraction licensing regime were implemented and most previously exempt abstractions (if over 20 cubic metres per day exemption threshold) will require a licence to continue legally abstracting water.
Historically, certain groundwater abstraction activities for example, the dewatering of construction excavations to permit works to proceed in the dry, were exempt from licensing control. Activities such as this could legally abstract as much groundwater as they required without consideration of impact on the environment and/or others who had a legitimate (licensed) interest in the water.
On the 1st January 2018 changes to the abstraction licensing regime were implemented through new Regulations entitled “The Water Abstraction and Impounding (Exemptions) Regulations 2017”; most previously exempt abstractions (if over 20 m3/day exemption threshold) will require a licence to continue legally abstracting water.
Abstractions which fall under the New Licencing Regime
The abstractions which now fall under the licensing regime are often termed “New Authorisations” and include:
•Water transfer from one inland water to another in the case of, or as a result of, operations carried out by a navigation harbour or conservancy authority
•Abstractions into internal drainage districts but not including land drainage activities
•Dewatering of mines, quarries and engineering works, where the water is mostly groundwater rather than rain
•Warping (abstraction of water containing silt for deposit onto agricultural land as fertiliser)
•All forms of irrigation (except for spray irrigation which is already licensable) and the use of land drainage systems in reverse (including transfers into managed wetland systems) to maintain field water levels
•The majority of abstractions by Crown and visiting forces exemptions
•Abstractions within previously geographically exempt areas
Low Risk Activities which will remain exempt
For certain low risk activities an exemption may remain in place, provided any particular rules/restrictions associated with that activity are complied with (See Below):
• Transfer downstream of the normal tidal limit by navigation, harbour and conservancy authorities, other than in the hour before or after low tide
• Abstraction in connection with dredging operations authorised by an authority in the exercise of its statutory functions in relation to whose waters upstream of the normal tidal limit and any abstraction down stream of the normal tidal limit
• Abstraction of water within managed wetland systems (subject to the main abstraction into the system being licensed) and impounding works solely for the management, operation or maintenance of water within managed wetland systems
• Impounding works constructed by or on behalf of Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) to exercise their function within the appointed area
• Dewatering of underground strata and abstractions of surface waters to prevent interference with building or engineering works where the abstraction lasts less than six consecutive months (Subject to Restrictions, see Note 1 and 2 below)
•Third-party operated dry docks that transfer water to and from a navigation authority’s water system
• Impounding works when required in an emergency
• Emergency abstraction or impounding where undertaken by port, harbour or conservancy authorities
1 Small Scale Dewatering in the course of building or engineering works (Regulation 5)
The restriction on abstraction does not apply to an abstraction or series of abstractions of water carried out in the course of building or engineering works for the purpose of dewatering a sump or excavation if:
• The abstraction or series of abstractions are temporary and in any event carried out over a period of less than six consecutive months beginning with the commencement of the first abstraction
• Each abstraction does not cause or is likely to cause damage to a conservation site or specific features in such as site
• Each abstraction does not cause or is not likely to cause damage to protected species, and
• Either –
o The water abstracted is immediately discharged to a soakaway, or
o The volume of water abstracted is less than 100 cubic meters or water per day and there is no intervening use of that water before discharge
Where the abstraction is undertaken within 500 metres of a conservation site or within 250 metres of a spring , well or borehole used to supply water for any lawful use the limit on abstraction is reduced to 50 cubic metres of water per day.
2 Surface water abstraction in the course of building or engineering works (Regulation 6)
The restriction on abstraction does not apply to any abstraction or series of abstractions of surface water in order to prevent interference with building or engineering works, if the following conditions are met:
• The abstraction or series of abstractions are temporary and in any event carried out over a period of less than six consecutive months being with the commencement of the first abstraction
• Each abstraction does not cause or is likely to cause damage to a conservation site or specific feature in such a site
• Each abstraction does not cause or is not likely to cause damage to protected species
• The water abstracted is immediately discharged downstream of the building or engineering works
What does this mean in practice?
The implemented changes to the Abstraction Licencing regime put additional requirements on construction companies to provide control and understand the legal requirements in connection with their activities.
In addition to the existing legal requirements of ensuring that any discharge water is of the required environmental (water quality) standard and if required that any necessary Environmental Permit or Trade Effluent Discharge Consent is in place and fully complied with; there is now a legal requirement to consider legal (licensing) requirements associated with abstraction (dewatering).
In practical terms this means that Construction Companies need to provide increased levels of management control of their activities; a greater need for internal permits to pump and greater pre-construction assessment of the dewatering requirements.
Additionally, consideration of both the likely dewatering volumes and duration of dewatering will need to be undertaken.
On-operational sites there is now an increased need to actively monitor the volume of water abstracted and the periods of time on which dewatering is being undertaken.
Source: Watery News 2nd February 2018