Summary

We received 42 comments from 20 contributors on the idea threads posted by Defra, these responses are summarised below.  We also received a further 7 new ideas from contributors.

Applying restrictions equally to all users

Many contributors thought that it was reasonable for all abstractors to reduce their use equally.  There was a suggestion that any decrease should be done in collaboration with stakeholders.  A number of contributors asked how it would work; would it be a reduction in flow rates or absolute volumes and would it be a reduction of annual limits or a decrease over a shorter period of time? Water companies thought that any proposed decreases would need to be built into their water resource planning, to ensure that any reductions allow for water companies to meet their legal obligation and the maintenance of the Public Water supply (PWS).

Prioritising certain water usage

Some contributors suggested prioritisation may be required to maintain PWS abstraction during drought conditions, ensuring water companies could continue to provide a level of service to customers.  Many also felt that prioritisation was also essential for other sectors.  The following activities were suggested as possible priorities; medical use, food and drink production and energy production.  It was suggested that any prioritisation should be agreed in advance of a drought, considering all the potential impacts. 

Suspending trading markets

Contributors did not agree if or when intervention in the market would be needed.  Some suggested that if there was an abstraction trading market then any priority would be determined by the market.  Others thought intervention would be needed to prevent only those better able to afford higher prices from buying available water.  Those in favour of suspension said that as an essential commodity, water should not be subject to a completely free market.  Some did not think that suspension of the market was needed as there were already powers to stop abstraction during drought, and trading should be allowed to continue if abstraction was still allowed.  It was also suggested that if abstractions were stopped, stored water should still be tradable.

As with many of the interventions that could be taken during a drought, including providing environmental protection, contributors suggested any conditions for suspension should be agreed in advance of any drought. 

Preparation and planning for drought

Any restrictions should be clearly defined, transparent, evidence based and reflect local conditions.  This would help abstractors to better understand any conditions in advance, enabling them to make informed plans.

In order to encourage abstractors to produce the best possible drought plans, some people thought that the Environment Agency could help abstractors by publishing information on reliability of sources, active abstractors etc. and helping to them assess the risks. Contributors agreed that it was important for abstractors to work together and with Government for example through abstractor groups.  This would ensure key stakeholders involvement in discussions on how best to manage drought, whilst allowing them to understand the balance between abstractors and environmental protection.

Why the contribution is important

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by abstractionreform on June 24, 2015 at 06:21PM

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