Is it legal to draw water from the source in Northern Ireland?

With the dry weather continuing, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has urged businesses, councils and farmers to use water wisely and be aware of the regulations for drawing from the source.

Rivers, lakes and wetlands are key features of the landscape, which support diverse and internationally important habitats of plant and animal life.

The rules surrounding water abstraction

In order to protect plants, animals and to manage the use of water resources, the licensing of abstractions (drawing from a water source) and impoundments – creating a pool with a dam or pond – to supply livestock or wildlife, are important and necessary.

The Water Abstraction and Impoundment (Licensing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, came fully into force in February 2007.

These regulations establish a management system for the use of water in industry and agriculture, and, at the same time, support the protection of NI’s water-based ecosystems.

As this period of warm and dry weather continues the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has streamlined its procedures to more rapidly respond to farmers, small businesses and local councils who have an urgent need of water at this time.

Where the protection of a crop needs irrigation, animals require drinking water, or a new recreational area needs sprinklers, NIEA will do its best to assist.

Dependant on the daily volume required the following actions can be taken:

Under the current legislation, if a business/farm needs up to 10,000L a day (2,200gal), then that is automatically permitted, and the action can proceed.

If this low volume abstraction is to be taken from a waterway or lake, then the abstractor will be asked to install a still well.

Pumping from a still well will prevent animal life or fish from being impacted. NIEA can provide advice on how to do this.

Need more water?

If a business, farm or local council requires a daily volume between 10,000 and 20,000L (2,200 to 4,400gal) a day, then it will need to notify NIEA and indicate by map or grid reference where the proposed abstraction point is to be.

There is no fee for this notification and NIEA will respond to you in writing.

If a business, farm or local council requires greater than 20,000L (4,400gal) a day, then a full licence is required.

An authorisation can be granted for a seasonal period. The application fee for this type of authorisation is £157.