Environment Agency launches new abstraction charging scheme

The Environment Agency has launched a new abstraction charging scheme, after it published its long-awaited consultation looking to review the regime.

Details on the UK's abstraction charging scheme 2022 have been unveiled, with the guidance now available to see online.

The consultation ran for 12 weeks with a 10 November 2021 deadline for responses, and the NFU had urged farmers and growers who abstract water to respond.

Comments were needed to identify changes to charges that farmers would be subject to, and the impact of those costs on farming businesses.

Abstraction charges are used to fund the Environment Agency in carrying out its duties for managing water resources.

The underlying principles of the charging regime have remained unchanged for many years.

Although individual charges change from year to year, the EA said they would no longer allow the charging regime to fully recover costs to meet existing demands and future pressures.

Historically, the scheme has been based on charging abstractors relative to the potential effect of their abstractions on the water environment.

But the agency explained that it wanted to shift the focus so that charges better reflect the level and complexity of the services provided.

NFU water resources specialist, Paul Hammett warned that there would be 'winners and losers' within the farming community if and when new charging proposals are implemented this year.

"We are still working through the details of the EA's proposals," Mr Hammett said.

"But it looks as if annual abstraction charges could be reduced for many members while application charges for new, varied or renewed licences could increase – in some cases substantially."

The consultation document makes it clear that the special two-part tariff agreement for spray irrigation licences will continue.

This provision will be extended to trickle irrigation licences which are being brought into the licensing system.

The EA is also proposing to retain the 50% reduction in annual charges for farm reservoirs where abstractions are authorised during the winter season only.

While the NFU said the continuation of this special arrangement for reservoirs was welcomed, many farmers would be hoping for similar discounts for the abstraction of high-flow surface water at any time of the year.

The union said it would delve into the detail of the new charging scheme and will provide more information in due course.

Source: Farming UK