Over-abstraction damaging environment

18th July 2012

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  • Natural resources ,
  • Ecosystems ,
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A group of MPs has called on the government to tackle urgently the environmental damage caused by over-abstraction of water, and warned that its current plans will not stop rivers in England running dry

In its white paper "Water for life", which was published last year, the government acknowledged that ecosystems were already being harmed by unsustainable levels of water use, and outlined plans to reform abstraction licensing over the next 15 years.

But the environment, food and rural affairs committee says the changes to the 60-year-old regime will not be implemented fast enough to prevent further damage to water environments.

“The reform of abstraction licences must be brought forward to protect against the effect of severe droughts such as the one we saw earlier this year,” said committee chair Anne McIntosh.

She also said that Defra needed to work with Ofwat and the Environment Agency to get to grips with abstractions that are already causing severe damage to rivers.

The MPs say that a reformed abstraction regime should be in place no later than 2022.

They have also set a 2014 deadline on reform of the agency’s restoring sustainable abstraction programme, which currently provides a mechanism for licences to be removed where an abstraction is causing damage.

The outcome of the committee’s inquiry into the white paper also recommends more action to improve the management of surface water through sustainable drainage systems, which can prevent flash flooding during heavy rain.

It also advises the government to set clear targets to improve water metering.

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