What to do before applying for a water abstraction or impoundment licence

Find out what steps you should take before applying for a water abstraction or impoundment licence

If you’re sure you need a licence for your activity, there are certain steps you should take before you send us a formal application. You can:

Is there water available in your area?

We assess the amount of water available in each catchment and use this to produce our abstraction licensing strategy for the catchment. The abstraction licensing strategy for your catchment will tell you whether there is any water available for abstraction.

If there is no water available, your application is unlikely to be successful unless you return all the water abstracted to the environment. This is called a non-consumptive abstraction.

Investigate a groundwater source

You can check if there is a groundwater source available, and whether it is suitable for your needs without having a full abstraction licence by carrying out a ‘pumping test’. You need to download form WRC and apply for a groundwater investigation consent to do this.

Your investigation consent limits the rate and duration of abstraction, and restricts the work carried out to:

  • find out if there is groundwater present; and
  • discover what effect abstracting groundwater would have on the environment.

A consent to investigate is not usually needed for a dewatering operation. A consent would be needed if, before applying for a licence, you plan to test pump (above 20 cubic metres a day) to investigate aquifer properties and assess the risks to surrounding water features.

How do groundwater investigation consents work?

The consent contains conditions that you must follow when carrying out your investigation. We may withdraw the consent if you do not meet the conditions.

Investigation consents normally last between six and nine months. We expect you to complete your investigation – the ‘pumping test’ - in this time. You can use SEPA’s Pumping Test Methodology to help you plan your investigation.

You must send us a groundwater impact assessment, including your ‘pumping test’ results if you formally apply for a full abstraction licence. Even if the investigation shows the source provides enough water for your needs, this does not mean we will automatically grant you an abstraction licence.

Apply for a consent to investigate a groundwater source

To apply for a groundwater investigation consent read the guidance and then complete an application form.

We will aim to provide you with your consent within 45 working days, as stated in our service level timescales. It can take longer to assess your application if the activity is close to sensitive conservation sites, as we may have to consult externally.

Get help to apply

If you have any queries about your proposal or want to find out about issues which could affect how likely it is your formal application will be successful, we recommend you submit a pre-application enquiry.

You can submit a pre-application enquiry for an impoundment or abstraction from inland surface water by completing an application form, with a brief description of your proposal.

Pre-application enquiries are currently free of charge for the first two hours advice and charged for any subsequent time required. Check Our Charges for further information on charging.

Request pre-application advice for a hydropower scheme.

If you are planning to abstract water to carry out a hypdropower scheme you should read our Hydropower Guidance Notes (HGNs) and Supporting Guidance Notes (SGN) before you start to choose the location and design of your schemes and before you make any pre-application enquiries or formal applications.

The notes provide advice and technical guidance for designers and developers of hydropower schemes, and information on what you should do to comply with environmental and other legislation.

To send us a hydropower pre-application enquiry, read our application guidance and then complete an application form.

You must submit a stage 1 geomorphology photosurvey with your pre-application enquiry. This is a non-technical document that will allow us to provide advice on the geomorphological siting and design requirements of your hydropower scheme early in the application process. It also helps us provide better advice, more quickly, on other environmental aspects of your scheme. Read our guidance geomorphology photosurveys for hydropower developments (SGN2) to help you understand what we need.

Related document downloads

Form WRC Application for a consent to investigate a groundwater source WORD [187.7 KB]
Guidance note WRC Applying for a consent to investigate a groundwater source PDF [238.6 KB]