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Rivers: Water Abstraction

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 123503, tabled on 1 December 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans his Department has to reduce over-abstraction by water companies from chalk streams.

Answered on

9 December 2020

The Government's Water Abstraction Plan, that was published in December 2017 sets out clear objectives for achieving sustainable abstraction for England, plus mechanisms for delivery. Our approach to addressing these issues has three main elements:

  • making full use of existing regulatory powers and approaches to address unsustainable abstraction;
  • developing a stronger catchment focus;
  • and supporting these reforms by modernising the abstraction service.

Progress was last reported to parliament in May 2019 ( Report to Parliament )

The Environment Agency has already made changes to 124 licences to protect chalk streams from over abstraction, returning over 37 billion litres of water per year to chalk streams, and preventing a further 100 billion litres per year being abstracted. In addition, they have revoked 85 unused and underused licences in chalk streams, preventing 7.5 billion litres of water being abstracted every year.

Further sustainability reductions amounting to about 100 million litres per day in chalk streams will be delivered in the next 5 years by water companies through the Water Industry National Environment Programme. In addition, the Environment Agency is working with water companies to prioritise additional voluntary reductions in sensitive chalk catchments.