Changes to the regulatory framework for abstraction and impounding licensing in England: Moving into the Environmental Permitting Regulations regime

Closed 22 Dec 2021

Opened 29 Sep 2021


We are moving the regulation of abstraction and impounding licensing into the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 [1] in 2023. This consultation covers all abstraction and impounding licences regulated by the Environment Agency.

The Government’s 2017 Water Abstraction Plan[2] sets out how the Government will reform water abstraction management over the coming years and how this will protect the environment and improve access to water. The abstraction plan contributes to delivery of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan[3] long-term goal of ‘clean and plentiful water’. There are three main elements to the abstraction plan – addressing unsustainable abstraction; building a stronger catchment focus; and modernising the abstraction service to support reform. 

The Abstraction Plan sets out how we will use existing legislation to deliver some of the principles of abstraction reform. This move into the Environmental Permitting Regulations is not about delivering the aspirations as set out in the 2016 consultation response ‘Making the most of every drop’.

The move into the Environmental Permitting Regulations is part of the drive to modernise abstraction and impounding management and to streamline the overall environmental regulatory framework. The move allows for further rationalisation and unification of regulations so that the majority of environmental permissions will fit under one legal framework. This is especially advantageous to the growing number of customers who hold more than one legal permission with the Environment Agency and conduct multiple activities on the same site.

The aims of integrating the regulation of abstraction and impounding licensing into the Environmental Permitting Regulations are:

  • A streamlined regulatory landscape
  • Proportionate, risk-based regulation
  • Dynamic water management
  • Permit consolidation across environmental regimes
  •  A future digital service where customers can manage all their Environmental Permitting Regulations permits in one place

This consultation seeks your views on our proposals for amending the Environmental Permitting Regulations to include abstraction and impounding licensing and subsequent amendment to existing water resources legislation, including the Water Resources Act 1991 and the Water Act 2003.

Next steps

The consultation will run for twelve weeks from 29 September to 22 December 2021. Please give us your veiws using the Online Survey below. Links to the consultation document and supporting documents can also be found below.

Please note that not all questions need to be answered in order to submit a response and we encourage you to answer the questions that are relevant to you. Please read the questions carefully, and only provide comment or evidence where asked. You do not need to answer all the questions.

If you would like to save and return later then go to the bottom of the page you are on and select “save and come back later”. You should receive an email with your own unique ANON number. Make sure you have received this email before you leave the consultation.

If you want to open a website or document link from the Online Survey, right click and open in new tab to avoid being directed out of Citizen Space.

Following closure of the consultation, we will analyse responses and publish a Government response. The proposals in this consultation require changes to the Environmental Permitting Regulations and to current abstraction and impounding licensing legislation for which we will require Parliamentary approval. We will engage stakeholders and abstractors throughout the process.

What happens next

Thank you for responding to the consultation. We received 109 responses via the Citizen Space website and email, many of which were very detailed.  We want to ensure we are fully considering all views, before publishing our response. This has meant that the publication of the Government’s response to the consultation is delayed, but we expect to be able to publish this in 2023.


  • Charities/Voluntary Organisations
  • Environmental campaigners
  • Food Industry
  • Government Agencies
  • Aggregates sector
  • Energy sector
  • Water/water Industry sector
  • Angling Organisations and Trade
  • Water Abstractors
  • Environmental professional services
  • Local Authorities
  • Commercial Fisheries Organisations
  • Business/Private Sector
  • Non-Government Organisation
  • Manufacturing Industry
  • Landowners and their representative bodies
  • Farmers
  • Horticulture Industry


  • Natural environment
  • Climate change
  • Sustainable development
  • Water conservation
  • Local environments
  • Water Abstraction
  • Water Industry licencing