Spray irrigation restrictions during dry weather

Spray irrigation restrictions

To protect the environment, we can reduce or stop spray irrigation under section 57 of the Water Resources Act 1991. This section explains more about the restriction. 

This means we can serve a notice on abstraction licence holders for spray irrigation reducing the quantity of water that can be abstracted or stopping abstraction all together, for the period specified in the notice. Where there is more than one licence holder for spray irrigation abstracting from the same source of supply, we must treat them equally.

We will always see these restrictions as a last resort for restricting this sector and will work with abstractors (not just spray irrigators) to explore the benefit of voluntary restrictions to avoid or delay the use of section 57 restrictions. If your licence includes 'hands off flow' conditions, then it is likely these would already be operating before we introduced a section 57 restriction.

We cannot serve a notice restricting abstractions from groundwater for spray irrigation unless the abstraction is likely to affect the flow, level or volume of nearby inland waters such as a river or stream.

Would all irrigators be affected?

No, the following abstractors will be among those excluded:

  • previously exempt abstraction currently within licence application window eg trickle irrigation
  • irrigation using water collected in winter storage reservoirs
  • water used to supply pot grown plants which are unable to take moisture from the soil
  • irrigation of covered crops (in glasshouses or polytunnels)

If your licence allows you to spray irrigate and use water for another purpose, such as vegetable washing, the section 57 restriction would only apply to your spray irrigation abstraction.

Further information on exemptions can be viewed at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1992/1096/made

What will trigger a section 57 restriction?

We will use surface water thresholds, such as surface water levels and flows, along with environmental conditions such as water temperature, dissolved oxygen levels, signs of environmental stress, and weather forecasts to decide when to consider section 57 restrictions. 

We will also consider the likely beneficial impacts of restrictions, including the magnitude of benefit and the stage in the season. For example, we would not apply section 57 outside the main irrigation season. There may also be local reasons to trigger a restriction, for example where public water supply is threatened and drought orders or permits are in place.

How will I find out about a section 57 restriction being imposed?

If we need to impose a restriction, it should not be a surprise and you will probably be working with us, perhaps through your abstractor group, on a voluntary basis to reduce your water use and avoid restrictions.

If we need to impose one, we will serve notice by letter and email (if available) at least two weeks before you have to reduce or stop your abstraction.  We may be able to phase-in restrictions before implementing an abstraction ban.

If you impose a section 57 ban, do I still need to pay my annual charge? 

Yes. To recognise the uncertainty irrigators face from section 57 bans, and variable weather patterns, they are the only abstractors to benefit from a charge reduction of up to 50%. This reduction is known as a ‘two-part tariff’. Many spray irrigators already have a two-part tariff agreement. If you don't, please contact us on the number below and we'll tell you how to apply for one. 

For more information

  • General enquiries and information about two-part tariffs contact our Customer Care Centre on 0300 065 3000 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email enquiries@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk
  • Abstractors in the Severn catchment should call the River Severn Regulation phoneline 0800 085 1636.
  • Abstractors in the Wye catchment should use the Sprayline Service phoneline 0870 905 6061.