Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland
If you take or store surface water or groundwater from any source, you are abstracting or impounding water.
If you abstract or impound water, you may need authorisation:
The type of authorisation you need will depend on how much water you take. You may need an authorisation even if you move water temporarily and return it to the source.
Surface water and groundwater sources include:
If you take water from the mains supply you don't need an authorisation or licence.
If you abstract more than 20 cubic metres (m³) of water a day from surface waters or groundwater, you must get an abstraction licence from the NIEA.
If you abstract 20m³ or less of water a day you must:
If you abstract between 10m³ and 20m³ of water a day you must also notify the NIEA.
If you impound (store) water on a watercourse, for example to create a reservoir, you may need an impoundment licence from the NIEA.
For more information about when you need an abstraction or impoundment licence, see our guideline:
If you abstract less than 10 cubic metres (m³) of water a day from surface waters or groundwater, you must comply with general binding rules (GBRs), and you will not need to contact SEPA.
If you abstract more than 10m³ of water a day, you must register with SEPA. If you abstract more than 50m³ of water a day, you must have an abstraction licence from SEPA.
SEPA's practical guide gives you more information about GBRs and guidance on the level of authorisation that you will need for your activity.
You may need a licence from SEPA to carry out an existing impoundment activity, or to build any new impoundment structures, for example weirs or dams. You may also need an engineering authorisation under the Controlled Activities Regulations (CAR).
For more information about GBRs, registrations and licences and when you need an impoundment licence, see our guideline:
To get an abstraction or impoundment licence you should contact the NIEA or SEPA for an application form and to discuss your requirements.
You should also notify the NIEA or SEPA as early as possible if you're taking over an existing licence. The licence will remain the responsibility of the current licence holder until it is transferred.
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