Restricting access could harm food production

The CLA is calling for agriculture to be exempt from new proposals to reduce access to water.

Responding to the Government’s water abstraction consultation, Making the Most of Every Drop, the Association says that unless farmers are given secure access to water, UK food production could be seriously compromised.

CLA north regional director Dorothy Fairburn said: “Agriculture represents less than one per cent of the total licensed volumes of water, and should be removed from the abstraction regime.

“The Government’s proposals must guarantee food businesses have secure access to water if essential food security is to be maintained.

“A system that restricts the ability to abstract water during very low river flows could harm crops, fruit and vegetables and hinder food production.”

The Government is proposing two key options. The first – Current System Plus – would allow people to abstract up to a fixed annual volume of water with daily limits and conditions.

The Water Shares option would see the Government decide on the total allocation of water to be abstracted in part of a catchment and divvy up the share accordingly.

The new proposals would also automatically revoke unused abstraction licenses, which the CLA claims would cause serious problems for the agricultural industry.

Miss Fairburn said: “Food businesses have strategic reasons as to why licensed volumes of water may not be fully used, for instance excessive rainfall or crop rotation.

“Abstractors must first be given the chance to justify their need for water, and if the decision to revoke a licence is maintained, there should be the option to sell or transfer it.”