£8,000 Fine For Farmer Over Illegal Water Abstraction.

Water consumption analysis - H2O Building Services


With groundwater and river levels falling around the country as a result of climate change pressures, population growth fuelling demand and increased urbanisation, it’s important that businesses and landowners don’t take too much water – which is why abstraction licences are in place.


Abstraction is the removal of water from a surface source (such as a canal, stream or river), or from an underground source. It is likely that you will need to apply for an abstraction licence from the Environment Agency if you intend to take more than 20 cubic metres of water a day.


And failure to apply for a licence could land you in trouble if you do abstract more water than you’re permitted to – as one farm business in Cambridgeshire has just discovered to their detriment.

According to Farmer’s Weekly, Dennis (Haddenham) Limited, based in Ely, illegally abstracted water when restrictions were in place following an extended period of extremely dry weather, repeating the crime less than 12 months later, again despite being aware that they were already being investigated.


The business has now been ordered to pay almost £8,000 for illegal water abstraction for its potato crop, with Cambridge Magistrates’ Court hearing how the company took over five million litres of water on one occasion, which is more than enough to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools.


In all, the Environment Agency and the internal drainage board observed illegal abstractions six times, with the company having either no licence for abstraction or breaking the conditions of the licence by taking water when restrictions were in force.


The Environment Agency’s Andrew Raine said the rules had been “recklessly and repeatedly” flouted, adding that fellow farmers had been disadvantaged by “selfishly taking more water than they were allowed and also putting the delicate ecosystems of our rivers at risk”.


In July last year, the government announced that it would be starting to use drones to gather information about illegal abstraction in East Anglia’s fenland areas.


Abstraction needs to be managed to balance environmental needs with the rights of lawful water users during droughts and periods of dry weather, but the heatwave seen in 2018 led to numerous licence holders breaching their conditions.


The drones are connected to a web portal so that the Environment Agency can view images from a computer and fly devices over locations of their choice. If irrigators are found to be making illegal abstractions, enforcement action such as written warnings, civil sanctions, referral to the Rural Payments Agency or prosecution can be taken.


If, as a business, you’re keen to reduce your water consumption to help protect this precious resource and ensure that demand doesn’t outstrip supply in the future, get in touch with H2o Building Services so we can carry out water consumption analysis across your entire site.


There are lots of strategies you can employ to reduce water usage and we can help advise you on this, as well.