History | BAWAG | Broadland Agricultural Water Abstractors Group

Broadlands Agricultural Water Abstractors Group(BAWAG) was set up in the mid-1990s to help food and farming abstractors in north-east Norfolk understand how new EU environmental directives would affect their businesses.

Like a small number of other areas in the UK, the climate and soils in north-east Norfolk are ideal for growing soft fruit & vegetables and irrigated agricultural has developed to become a key part of the local economy. Importantly, Norfolk also contains the Broads and an equally important set of Chalk rivers, including the Wensum and the Nar. These have the highest national and international designations for conservation & protection and are critically dependent on plentiful supplies of clean water.

This combination of sensitive water-dependent habitats and a productive agricultural land, both of which are highly valued, has made north-east Norfolk the focus for much recent work on sustainable abstraction. In this, BAWAG has been closely involved with the key developments:

  • Since the mid-1990’s, working with government, regulators, the NFU & others to influence water policy & regulation
  • In the mid-2000’s, with the development and roll-out of new standards for water efficiency in irrigated agriculture including “Water Audits”
  • Since the mid-2010’s, working with the NFU and others to test the environmental thresholds that have been proposed for abstraction in areas close to designated wetland sites, and
  • In the early 2020’s, with on-going work to develop modern, collaborative approaches to water resource management planning.

BAWAGs recent effort is designed to help abstractors adapt to new regulations, as well as the underlying threats of water scarcity, climate change & drought. This includes:

  • Helping manage the transition from the current abstraction licensing system to the new Environmental Permitting Regime (EPR)
  • Implementing the National Framework for Water Resources, with its emphasis on multi-sector collaboration, drought resilience, catchment-based solutions & enhanced environmental outcomes, and
  • Delivering the water-related elements of Future Farming, the agricultural component of the 25-year Environment Plan.

From a network of abstractors that was established 25-years ago to influence policy & regulation, BAWAG has evolved into an organisation helping members proactively manage their water related risks.The change is being achieved by working with others, promoting a collaborative approach to dealing with common issues & problems, and by developing the tools that abstractors need to work more effectively with regulators and other stakeholders.

BAWAGs vision is for successful food and farming businesses in Norfolk, which conserve and protect the environment. We are clear that to deliver this we need to build capacity within our membership for water resource management and drought planning, and our overall goals are to:

  • Secure access to reliable, affordable and sustainable supplies of water
  • Increase resilience in agri-environmental systems
  • Deliver enhanced societal and environmental outcomes, and
  • Build the organisational and technical capacity to deliver the above.

In working towards these objectives, we want to be collaborative, trusted, open & transparent. We want the work that we do to be led by high-quality evidence, and to be technically robust.