What to do before applying for a water abstraction or impoundment licence

If you’re sure you need a licence for your activity, there are certain steps you should take before you send us a formal application. You can:

Check whether there is water available in your area

You should check there is enough water available in your catchment. Download the abstraction licensing strategy for your catchment to find out if water is available for abstraction.

In order to protect downstream users and the environment, we may require you to stop or reduce your abstraction if the water falls below a certain level. If we are able to give you an abstraction licence, this will be set out in your licence conditions. Even if we issue a licence, there is no guarantee that the amount of water you are authorised to abstract will be available (this could be due to environmental conditions) or that the quality of the water will be suitable for the licensed purpose.

If there is no water available, your application is unlikely to be successful unless you return all the water abstracted to the environment.

If you want further information on water availability and potential restrictions in relation to your abstraction proposal, you can request our pre-application advice service.

Show us your rights of access to the abstraction point

You need to show us you have an ‘entitlement to apply’ when you apply for an abstraction licence. To meet this requirement, you must either:

  • own the land
  • occupy/have a right of access; or
  • have a prospective right of access

The evidence you need to submit with your application will depend on how you meet the requirement. Please see 'What evidence do I need to show my right of access to the abstraction point' for more information.

Designated sites

If your proposed abstraction or impoundment is likely to affect a designated conservation site, then a detailed evaluation of its environmental impacts, particularly its impacts on the designated features and their conservation status, will be necessary.

If required, applicants will be responsible for providing specific surveys to inform a detailed evaluation of the likely impacts of a proposal. Applicants are likely to find it helpful to identify any such requirements at an early stage. We may be able to provide site specific information including monitoring information, which may assist with the assessment of conservation objectives.

You can find further information on designated sites, the conservation objectives for each site and our management plans and citations from our Find protected areas of land and sea page.

Nearby water users

It is your responsibility to ensure that your proposal will not affect any water features or interests (i.e. wells, boreholes, springs, streams or ponds) in the area, including licensed and unlicensed abstractions.

We advise all applicants to consult other local river users and interest groups before submitting an application. You should consider nearby abstractors who are exempt from licensing, other water users, anglers and canoeists who may be affected by your proposal.

Your local authority’s Environmental Health department will hold details of exempt domestic abstractors under the Private Water Supplies Regulations. Early discussions with any water users are encouraged before submitting an application.

Water Framework Directive (WFD)

When you apply for an abstraction or impoundment licence, we will carry out a WFD assessment based on your proposal. Please be aware that we may contact you to ask for further information to help us assess the impact of your proposal or address concerns that may arise. This could lead to delays in the determination period.

Historic Sites

You can check whether your proposal could impact on sites of historic value. In Wales, the Welsh Archaeological Trusts hold the Historic Environment Records. You should contact them to check whether any historic sites could be adversely affected by your proposal.

Canal and Rivers Trust abstractions

Please note, only Canal & Rivers Trust is entitled to apply for a licence to abstract from inland waters which it owns or manages (with some exceptions), although the actual abstractor may be a third party. As such, we can only consider formal applications submitted by Canal & Rivers Trust as they would be the holder of any subsequent licences issued. We recommend that you contact Canal & Rivers Trust as soon as possible to determine whether this applies to your proposal, and to discuss any potential issues.

Groundwater abstractions

If you’re abstracting from groundwater, please read our Groundwater Investigation Consent page.

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