Changes to water abstraction licensing exemptions in Wales

In Wales, Natural Resources Wales is responsible for managing our water resources. We need to make sure that the amount of water being taken – or abstracted – from our rivers or out of the ground doesn’t cause unacceptable impacts to the environment and other water users.

How do I know how much water I abstract?

Meter readings are the easiest way to work out and evidence how much water you take, but if you don’t have these then you can use industry guides to work out water usage based on stock or crop requirements (see table below). More details are available in the Evidence Guide available on NRWs website.

What are new authorisations?

New authorisations are abstractions that were exempt until December 31 2017 but under changes to legislation in 2017, now require a licence. There is a separate streamlined application process available for these previously exempt abstractions.

Who do the changes apply to?

The changes apply to anyone who took water under an exemption from Jan 2011 to December 2017 and takes more than 20m3 (4,400 gallons) per 24 hours of water from a surface or ground water source.

What information will I need to have?

Applications must include;
• Evidence of how you have measured or calculated water usage e.g. meter readings, stock number, intake dimensions, irrigation plans.
• Evidence that you have abstracted in the qualifying period (January 1 2011 to December 31 2017) e.g. dated photos of borehole being installed, stock records, pump records, maintenance receipts.
• Evidence of how the abstraction has taken place (e.g. diagram/schematic/photograph)
• Site map showing land ownership or evidence of right of access
• Site map showing location of abstraction point(s)
More detail is available in the ‘Check list for applicants’ and evidence guide available on NRW’s website.

Stock water requirements



Cubic meters per day


Private domestic use


Dairy cows

Cleaning non-power hose


Cleaning power hose







Beef cows




Cleaning after each batch (10 pigs/pen)


Lactating sows


Pregnant sows and boars







Dipping (per dip)



Layers/100 birds


Fattening/100 birds



Fattening/100 birds


1 Higher values for lowland production in Southern England
2 for outdoor pigs the maximum litres/day/animal should be increased by 50% to allow for wastage and wallows.

Irrigation quantities are best assessed via the system to be used (manufacturer’s or advisers estimate of output), type of crop to irrigated, site – i.e. open ground or tunnels/greenhouses, acreage etc.

How much will it cost?

New, varied or renewed abstractions have a £135 application cost and annual fees may also be payable. Annual fees are based on several factors including volume, use and source. Contact the Water Resources Permitting Team (0300 065 3000) for more information on annual charges or the Abstraction Charges Scheme is available on the NRW website.

What will happen if I don’t apply?

If you don’t apply for a licence you will lose the right to abstract water as you have done in the past. Abstracting without a licence is an offence and you may be subject to enforcement action.

Where can I get more information?

NRW Water Resources Permitting team 0300 065 3000 or

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