The NFU and the CLA, as FRIGSE members, have commented on the publication of the draft Water Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. The draft Bill builds on the government’s vision for a sustainable water supply set out in the Water White Paper at the end of last year, Water for Life.
The NFU said: “Water is critical to many agricultural businesses and security of supply is foremost in the minds of farmers and growers. Although most of the draft Bill aims to improve competitiveness and efficiency of the water industry, agriculture still retains a keen interest and we will be following its progress during pre-legislative scrutiny very closely.
“We are glad the government has resisted pressure for the draft Bill to include legislative proposals to reform the abstraction regime. Agriculture must have continued and fair access to water and it is more important to us to take time and care over the design of any new abstraction regime and to ensure that it meets our future needs, rather than hastily pushing the changes through”.
But both organisations will be looking carefully at the government’s proposals to increase the scope of the Environmental Permitting Regulations to include other regimes, including abstraction and flood defence consents. They question the benefits of the extension for agriculture and horticulture and will be examining government’s justifications for these changes very closely.
The CLA too are reassured by the Government’s commitment to stick to a longer lead-in time to reform water abstraction rules, arguing that it is vital we have a well-constructed framework that ensures a fair allocation of water for farmers and land managers so they can meet the future challenges of food production and land management.
The CLA has welcomed proposals that will offer businesses more choice in the water market as set out in the draft Water Bill, arguing that all rural businesses would like to see a more competitive water industry. In the CLA view “More choice and flexibility in the water sector would result in businesses getting a better service as well as reducing costs. These proposals could lead to new business opportunities for agriculture and land managers to work closely with the water industry.