Abstraction licence (dewatering) exemptions –
New Authorisations

From January 2018, operators of previously exempt abstractions need to apply for the relevant licences to permit them to continue abstracting. The transition process for the removal of the exemptions is now underway, with operators having 2 years to apply for licences. The Environment Agency (EA)/Natural Resources Wales (NRW) will then have a 3-year period to determine applications through this transitional process. Abstraction applications for new activities (including those which would previously have been exempt) will be processed through the standard route.

Activities affected:

  • Water transfers between inland waters via a navigation, harbour or conservancy authority,
  • Abstraction of water into internal drainage districts,
  • All forms of irrigation,
  • Abstractions within geographically exempt areas,
  • Abstraction (the majority) governed by Crown and visiting forces exemptions,
  • Dewatering activities (groundwater) at quarries, mines and engineering works (lasting more than six months).

Quarry Operators

Implications are significant, with water management in existing and future quarries affected. Our involvement with the Mineral Products Association’s Water Working Group and contact with policy makers, Defra, the EA and NRW, gives us unique insight and understanding.


We have unrivalled experience in the environmental management of water at quarry sites over their lifetime and provide services to several national extractive companies, including Cemex, Tarmac, and Hanson. At the heart of our expertise is our understanding of the complex interaction between groundwater, abstraction and discharge. This, combined with our relationship with the regulators, enables us to provide a cost-effective and efficient approach when applying for abstraction licences and discharge permits.


We have a strong understanding of the key factors to consider and have carried out risk ranking of hundreds of sites in England and Wales to determine the issues which may affect compliance.


When it comes to your abstraction licence, we can help you to understand:

  • Issues that might put at risk the ability to keep sites dewatered and operational;
  • Water movements on site – disentangling what is used and what is simply transferred;
  • The site records and data required;
  • Site impact on the water environment;
  • Whether a transfer licence, full licence or no licence is required. Note that where dewatering water is “wholly or mainly rainwater” then a licence is not required;
  • The relevant timescales;
  • The level of detail to include within application forms.

Please contact Barnaby to discuss your needs.