News | BAWAG | Broadland Agricultural Water Abstractors Group

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In 2009 the UK and Welsh Governments consulted on implementing measures contained in the Water Act 2003 to end exemptions for significant abstractions. While responses were largely supportive they also highlighted some complex issues which we have since worked to address. Defra are now consulting jointly with the Welsh Government, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales on our revised approach to bring most exempt water abstractions into the licensing system ('new authorisations').
Ending most exemptions will enable the Regulators to better manage water resources and help to balance the needs of all abstractors and the environment.
The consultation document and the online survey to respond are available at:
The consultation runs for 12 weeks from 15 January 2016 to 8 April 2016.
We welcome your views and comments on the proposals. Both existing licensed abstractors and exempt abstractors will be interested and we also encourage you to share this consultation widely. Part I of the consultation document includes our response to the 2009 consultation and Part II of the document seeks views on the remaining questions.
If you have any queries about the new authorisations consultation please contact us at: Or for queries relating specifically to Wales please contact us at:
Entry added: 25 Jan 2016
The Environment Agency announced that it is minded to refuse two water abstraction license applications that are threatening rare wildlife found on two sites of European significance found in the Norfolk Broads.

Butterfly Conservation‘s Catfield Fen nature reserve and the RSPB’s Sutton Fen nature reserve are nationally recognised for their special wildlife. The sites are found within the Ant Broads and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest and form part of The Broads Special Area of Conservation.

The applicant has applied to abstract up to 68 million litres per year from a borehole close to Catfield Fen, and up to 22 million litres from a second borehole located between Catfield and Sutton Fen.

Catfield Fen is exceptionally rich in wildlife, and is the most important UK site for water beetles and wetland plants. The site is a stronghold for UK species such as one-grooved diving beetle Bidessus unistriatus, and the rare fen orchid Liparis loeselii, that have now disappeared from the majority of the UK.

Together, Catfield and Sutton Fen support over 90 per cent of UK fen orchid populations, and are home to large populations of swallowtail butterflies, water voles and Norfolk hawker dragonflies. The sites are also used by rare UK species including cranes, bitterns, marsh harriers and otters.

Water has been abstracted adjacent to Catfield since 1986 to irrigate arable crops and recent evidence indicates that the site has become more acidic, and drier, and this is threatening some of the country’s rarest species.

Phil Pearson, RSPB Senior Conservation Officer, said: “We are delighted that the Environment Agency has taken action to protect crucial wildlife habitats and wholeheartedly support their decision”

“Catfield Fen and Sutton Fen are considered by conservationists to be the ‘best of the best’ within one of Europe’s most important wetland sites.

“The UK’s wetland environments have undergone a dramatic decline in the last 100 years, which is having a devastating effect on the wildlife that relies on this habitat (note 3). It is unacceptable to allow the condition of wetland sites of this quality to continue to deteriorate and risk the loss of even more species, some of which are only found at these two sites in the whole of the UK.”

Phil added: “Nationally and internationally renowned ecological and hydrological experts have expressed concern that the changes in site condition are likely to be due to water abstraction. The Environment Agency’s decision illustrates their commitment to protecting the natural environment from deterioration and damage caused by taking water from the environment.

“We are not advocating no agriculture within the Catfield Fen area. However, we are advocating the need for water to be managed responsibly. These sites are the last refuge for some of our most threatened species, and whilst this decision is a fantastic outcome, it is by no means the last challenge faced by these precious sites.

“The RSPB will continue to fight to ensure the right decisions are made to protect these sites for the future. We are committed to working with individuals and organisations in the area to balance the needs of agriculture, water companies, councils and local residents, whilst protecting nationally important wildlife.

“We would urge people to encourage the Environment Agency to continue to support important sites such as Catfield and Sutton Fens by voicing their support for the Environment Agency’s decision.”

The Environment Agency has launched its ‘minded to’ public consultation. From now until 15th December you can read about why the Agency is minded to refuse the renewal of the abstraction licences and can submit any related comments or new evidence that may have come to light. You can comment on how the Environment Agency has made this draft decision and whether there is anything that has not been included that may be important in making the decision.

You have until midnight on Monday 15th December to provide any relevant comments to the Environment Agency via email to or by post to National Permitting Service – Water Resources, Iceni House, Cobham Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP3 9JD. After 15th December the Environment Agency says it will consider any relevant comments received and make its final decision.
Entry added: 16 May 2015
Farmers face ‘wake-up call’ on irrigation
Growers irrigating crops in East Anglia face major challenges, with water abstraction under pressure from the twin effects of a growing population and climate change.
Farmers must be allowed to play an active role in discussions about local water management, said Jamie Lockhart, chairman of the Broadland Agricultural Water Abstractors Group (Bawag).
Bawag represents more than 100 growers who irrigate arable and horticultural crops in the Broadland Rivers catchment area of east Norfolk.
Access to water would come under increased pressure from local development and housing growth, as well as greater environmental need due to climate change, said Mr Lockhart.
“It’s going to be increasingly important for the farming community to be actively involved in discussions about local water management,” he warned.
Bawag had a key role to play in finding ways for farmers to be part of the solution rather than the problem, added Mr Lockhart.
“The ‘nearly drought’ of 2012 was a real wake-up call for us.
“Before the rains came to get us out of jail, irrigated crop production on the farm faced a major water shortage which would have seriously hampered our crop production and profitability.”
As farm manager of Honingham Thorpe Farms, near Norwich, Mr Lockhart oversaw a major new reservoir project on the 2,430ha holding in the wake of 2012.
The farm took immediate steps to futureproof the business against water scarcity by installing a 45m gallon reservoir that came on stream a year later.
As well as managing the risk of water availability, the project allowed the farm to expand its potato production and move into growing onions.
But Mr Lockhart said the agricultural response to water shortages needed to be about much more than individual farmers building their own storage.
There was much to be done in getting a fair share of water for Norfolk farmers during proposed regulatory changes in the years ahead, he added.
“Agriculture needs to get much more involved in the strategic management of water across the whole Broadland area,” said Mr Lockhart.
Entry added: 17 Apr 2015
Nestle will be speaking at the ‘Producing, Processing and Packaging: Managing future water needs’ event on 9th March hosted by Agri-Tech East's 'Water for Agriculture' Special Interest Group in partnership with the Agritech Water Cluster (based at the University of East Anglia) and Anglian Water. Please contact Becky Dodds on
Entry added: 17 Feb 2015
The BAWAG AGM will be held on 4th February 2015 at 2pm at Anglia Farmers Ltd office. Speakers will include Rory Sanderson (EA) on River Basin Management Plan Consultation, Neil Punchard (Broads Authority) on Broads Catchment Partnership. Also in attendance Ian Pearson (EA Team Leader Environment Planning Specialist Restoring Sustainable Abstraction) and David Purdy (John Deere Irrigation Soil Moisture Monitoring)
Entry added: 31 Dec 2014
Would BAWAG Members please respond to the Catfield Fen Consultation by the 15th December the details can be found on the Catfield Fen tab on the left of the website. Thanks.
Entry added: 27 Nov 2014
BAWAG AGM 2pm 4/2/15 Anglia Farmers. Honingham Thorpe
Entry added: 18 Nov 2014
Catfield Licence Renewal. The Environment Agency has launched a public consultation (17 November) relating to two abstraction licence renewal applications submitted by a Norfolk farmer. The consultation will last for four weeks, closing on 15 December.
Entry added: 18 Nov 2014
The BAWAG committee had a meeting with Guy Smith the Vice President of the NFU yesterday to discuss the ongoing abstraction and licence renewal issues in the Broadland area. Paul Hammett the NFU water specialist was also in attendance.
Entry added: 10 Oct 2014
The consultation on Abstraction Reform ends on Friday the 28th March so please get your responses in by visiting:
Entry added: 18 Mar 2014
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