Since its formation in 1996, the Environment Agency has been responsible for managing water resources in England and Wales on behalf of Government.
This means balancing the water needs of people (public water supply, industry and agriculture) and the environment, both now and in the future.
We work with Defra, Welsh Government, Ofwat, local government, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and abstractors including water companies, industry and farmers to manage water both in the short term, such as during drought, and in the long term.
We also monitor river levels across England and Wales and respond to immediate threats to the environment, for example by rescuing fish at risk from falling water levels.
During a drought, we step up our monitoring actions to make sure that we continue to protect the environment from harm and take action to protect the environment.
We also manage the amount of water taken from the environment through a permitting system, by regulating existing licences and, where appropriate, granting new ones. In total we manage over 21,000 abstraction licenses across England and Wales.
In order to ensure the long-term management of water resources, the Environment Agency has several strands of work. These include:
Catchment Abstraction Management Strategies (CAMS)
CAMS assess the amount of water available in each river catchment. As part of this work we periodically review all abstraction licenses to determine whether or not they are having an unsustainable impact on the environment.
Working with Ofwat, Government and abstractors
We work with water companies and the government to ensure that water companies’ deliver on their Water Resource Management Plans (WRMP’s), which are approved by Government.
We also work with the financial regulator, Ofwat, to ensure adequate funding of resource management projects by water companies through the Periodic Review. The most recent review was carried out in 2009 and we helped to secure over £4.4 billion of investment in environmental improvements that will benefit river and bathing water quality.
The National Environment Programme sets out the environmental improvement schemes which will ensure that water companies deliver on their commitments, including those set by EU Directives, such as the Water Framework Directive and Habitats Directive and national targets. The Environment Agency monitors water companies to ensure that these schemes are delivered.
We also provide businesses and industry with advice on how to reduce their water consumption. And we provide information to Government to inform UK legislation governing water companies and other abstractors.
Restoring sustainable abstraction
Find out how the Environment Agency is working towards sustainable catchments.
As a result of historical abstraction licensing, some rivers and wetlands are affected by unsustainable abstraction, so we are working hard to restore the water environment.
In managing our water resources we need to balance the needs of a changing environment with those of people, business and industry.
The changes we are making will restore sustainable flows or water levels in rivers and wetlands.