Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Regulation that protects surface water and groundwater in Northern Ireland

Regulation that protects surface water and groundwater in Northern Ireland

Surface waters and groundwater are protected by a number of different regulatory controls. These protect water from pollution, prevent water sources from being depleted and control interferences with the natural flow of water.

Be aware that:

  • You must apply for a discharge consent or groundwater authorisation if you want to discharge anything other than clean, uncontaminated water to surface waters or groundwater. See the page in this guideline on Consents and authorisations you will need
  • The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) can issue notices to businesses to control water pollution. See the page in this guideline on Notices that prevent and control water pollution.
  • If your business activities pose an imminent threat to the environment, you must notify the relevant enforcing authority if the threat continues and take steps to prevent environmental damage. Where environmental damage has already occurred you must take action to remedy the damage. See our guideline: Environmental damage.
  • You may need a trade effluent consent or agreement from your water and sewerage company before you discharge trade effluent (liquid waste) into a public foul sewer. See our guideline: Trade effluent – discharges to sewer.
  • You must have an abstraction licence from the NIEA if you take certain quantities of water from surface waters or groundwater, or an impoundment licence if you impound (store or dam) water on an inland waterway. See our guideline: Water use and abstraction
  • You must make sure you store and use hazardous substances safely to avoid causing harm to human health or the environment. See our guidelines: Chemical storage and Oil storage
  • If you have a farm in a nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) - an area designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution - you must comply with specific rules. Northern Ireland: Nitrate Action Programme Regulations

If you pollute water or carry out certain activities without the necessary authorisation you may be fined, or even sent to prison.

Return to Preventing Water Pollution home page

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