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. An external briefing note is available.

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

Our dry weather advice to farmers 

Agricultural drought happens when there is not enough rainfall and moisture in soils which is essential for crop growth and some farming activities i.e. reducing water available for livestock. These conditions often happen alongside an environmental drought situation but usually before public water supplies are impacted.   

A prolonged period of low rainfall can severely impact agriculture through crop failure, reduced crop yield and grass growth for grazing (quantity and/or quality), disrupted access to drinking water for livestock and increased fire risk (particularly in upland/heath areas). In some cases, hot summers can be favourable for vegetable planting and the production of soft fruit, if there is sufficient water and soil conditions.  However, hot summers can cause increased pests and diseases due to stress caused to plants by lack of water.  

We have produced dry weather advice to farmers.  This advice document is available upon request by emailing drought.nrw@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

The advice focuses on the following: 

  • Abstraction of Water
  • Potential Alternative Sources Across Wales
  • Licence Variations
  • Section 57 Spray Irrigation Restrictions
  • Sustainable Land Management
  • Alternative Sources of Animal Bedding
  • Avoiding Agricultural Pollution in Hot Weather 

For further information on private water supplies, please refer to our advice document.

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