ADA rejects proposals to regulate water transfers into internal drainage districts

ADA has warned that the proposed imposition of new water transfer licences for Internal Drainage Boards transferring water into their drainage districts to manage water levels could have an adverse impact on licenced end users and the environment.

In ADA’s response to a Defra consultation called Changes to water abstraction licensing exemptions: New Authorisations, ADA says that a case has not been made to bring into the licensing system the non-consumptive transfers of water into Internal Drainage Districts.

ADA’s View

In ADA’s view, the financial and administrative costs imposed on Internal Drainage Boards arising from the ‘water transfer’ proposals would exceed perceived benefits. This could in turn adversely impact on the way that water levels are currently managed in internal drainage districts, and lead to significant adverse impacts to: existing licenced end users, designated environmental sites and the water quality and ecology of managed lowland waterbodies. Worryingly these impacts appear not to have been assessed prior to consultation.

Therefore it is ADA’s view that:

  • There should be a simple register of water transfer points into Internal Drainage Districts rather than the licencing arrangement proposed.
  • No volumetric limit should be placed on these (citing environmental, practical reasons).
  • No charge either one off or annual should be placed on an Internal Drainage Board for registration.
  • The details of water transfers, such as the type, size, intake and outflow levels may need to be recorded as part of the registration to assist with water level, water resource and flood risk management planning purposes.

More generally regarding New Authorisations, Defra should be prepared to deliver a programme of advice, support and ongoing training to help those end abstractors (particularly in the agricultural and horticultural sector) adapt to the new regulatory regime. ADA also believes that water resource planning and licensing policy in the UK, must pay due regard to both global food supply issues and global water pressures if we are to avoid importing more food (and therefore embedded water) from countries where water is under even greater stress arising from climate change impacts.

Download: ADA’s response to Defra’s consultation on changes to water abstraction licensing exemptions in England and Wales: New Authorisations (pdf)

The National Farmers’ Union has also highlighted the importance of water transfers in Internal Drainage Districts in the NFU’s own response to this consultation.