EA to use drones to detect illegal water abstractions
Drones will be used for the first time this summer to gather information about illegal abstraction in East Anglia's fenland areas.
The Environment Agency manages abstraction to balance the needs of the environment with the rights of lawful water users during periods of dry weather.
The EA's regulatory officers carry out high-visibility patrols every year throughout the irrigation season to ensure landowners and farmers are adhering to the conditions of their licences and do not cause harm to the environment.
Last year’s heatwave led to a number of licence holders breaching their conditions and this year some illegal abstractions have already been uncovered.
Andrew Chapman, environment planning specialist for the Environment Agency in East Anglia, said: "Following on from the hot and dry summer we experienced in 2018, our area has not received the winter rainfall we would normally expect and this is placing significant pressure on the water environment.
"We have contacted irrigators who have licences that permit abstraction from the Middle Level to inform them that restrictions are likely to be required during the irrigation season.
"We will be prioritising our water resources compliance work over the summer period in those catchments that are at risk from this prolonged dry period.
"This will be the first time we have ever used drones for this purpose. The majority of irrigators do operate within their licence conditions. However, last year a minority of farmers did not play by the rules and severely restricted other people’s ability to irrigate their crops."
A third party will be employed to operate the drone, which connects to a web portal, so that an Environment Agency staff member can view the images from a computer and direct the device to fly over certain locations. If irrigators are found to be abstracting illegally, enforcement action will be taken. This can include written warnings, civil sanctions, referral to the Rural Payments Agency or prosecution.
Five new environment officers have been taken on this year to help manage the water resources issue. Their role includes identifying licence holders at risk of water restrictions and making them aware of the possible shortages.
They will also carry out inspections in the riskier catchments where more intense abstraction takes place. In the east of the region, the frequency of compliance checks and patrols is also increasing.
Michael Neale, Land and Water team leader in Essex, said: "We have an intelligence-led approach to all compliance checks. We will always respond to reports of illegal abstraction. We are going to up our response out of hours to reports wherever they come from. We will have more resources on hand to bolster our approach."
- Water bursts cause flooding in Glasgow Pressure management system issues led to several water bursts in Glasgow last Thursday, causing widespread flooding.... Read More >
- Water Strategy for Wales seeks integrated approach WWT's Wales Water 2015 conference provided the first opportunity for experts in the sector to digest and discuss the Welsh... Read More >
- Affinity's abstraction cut helps protect Hertfordshire river Affinity Water has been praised by environmentalists for reducing the amount of water it abstracts by eighteen million... Read More >
- The price of water As part of our Utility of the Future campaign, Robin Hackett looks at whether low water bills can be maintained long term Read More >
- Scottish Water starts planning for the long term For SR21, Scottish Water is moving away from the traditional approach to business plans and developing a blueprint for the... Read More >
- Football teams and water companies: Closer than you think New season, new league, new challenges... Egremont Group's Owen Quinn and Alex Graham on the parallels between football... Read More >
- Abstract concept: How can water companies reduce abstraction? Despite concerns over supplies, water companies face pressure to reduce abstraction. As part of our Utility of the Future... Read More >
- The end of 'business as usual' in the water sector? James Connolly, head of partnerships at digital asset and works management company eviFile, assesses the message coming... Read More >