Abstraction Planning In CamEO

What is the Abstraction Plan?

The Abstraction Plan was published in December 2017, outlining how the Environment Agency plans to reform the current abstraction licensing system. This includes:

  • making full use of existing regulatory powers and approaches to address unsustainable abstraction,
  • supporting these reforms by modernising the abstraction service, making sure all significant abstraction is regulated and bringing regulations in line with other environmental permitting regimes,
  • developing a stronger catchment focus – bringing together the Environment Agency, abstractors and catchment groups to develop local solutions to existing pressures and to prepare for the future.

Local solutions are designed to:

  • protect the environment by changing licences to better reflect water availability in catchments and reduce the impact of abstraction,
  • improve access to water by introducing more flexible conditions that support water storage, water trading and efficient use.

In May 2019, a Report to Parliament  was submitted on the progress of the Abstraction Plan.

What is the role of Priority Catchments?

Priority Catchments are for developing and testing innovative solutions to address unsustainable abstraction. Following the announcement of the first 4 priority catchments in May 2018, six additional catchments have now been introduced.

CamEO – one of the first four Priority Catchments – was selected where:

  • there is unmet demand for water and/or there are concerns that abstraction is damaging the ecology,
  • there is potential for water to be shared amongst abstractors,
  • there are a number of abstractors who interested in trialling new and innovative ways of managing water abstraction.

These Priority Catchments intend to promote a catchment based approach and work closely with the local catchment partnership (e.g. CamEO). The direction and output of the CamEO Priority Catchment will be overseen by a catchment group including abstractors and other partners. Collaborative working across a range of stakeholders should mean that solutions deliver multiple benefits.

Who will be involved?

If you currently abstract within a Priority Catchment or have an interest in the way water resources are managed, then you have the opportunity to join a catchment group. During the trial, your experience and knowledge will be crucial to enable the development of solutions to unsustainable abstraction or water access limitations.

What has happened so far in CamEO?

  • On-going trial on notifying abstraction restrictions by text messages involving the Cambridgeshire Fenland Middle and South Level abstractors,
  • Working with water abstractor groups to explore aggregation of abstraction licences to achieve multiple environmental benefits and fine-tuning existing water sharing techniques between abstractors,
  • Exploring a Working With Natural Processes (WWNP) project which aims to assess water resources benefits. This is a desk-based study employing models to simulate water resources benefits from WWNP,
  • Investigating the benefits of flexible licence conditions to allow abstraction during high flows, independent of the abstraction season,
  • Scoping out the possibility of water re-use (in line with regulatory requirements),
  • Additional discussions are ongoing for a potential trial focusing on water efficiencies in irrigation and soil management,
  • Working with abstractors to explore how we can work in partnership to improve base flows in low flowing rivers.

How can I get involved or find out further information?

If you wish to get involved, learn more about the Abstraction Plan and Priority Catchment work or have any questions, contact [email protected]