Avoiding Abstraction Charges with Wastewater Reuse

For the first time in a decade, the Environment Agency has increased its abstraction licence charges. Here Peter Brewer at Veolia Water Technologies UK (VWT UK) explains why the organisation has made this decision, as well as how to avoid paying heavy water abstraction fees.

What is Water Abstraction?

Water abstraction refers to the method of removing water from its source permanently or with the intention to replenish the supply. Too much abstraction can be damaging to wildlife in both aquatic and surface-level ecosystems, as it is taken from surface water and groundwater.

Who are the Environment Agency? 

The Environment Agency plays a crucial role in protecting and improving the environment in England. Among its many responsibilities is the management of the country’s water resources, investigating all new abstraction proposals before granting licences and carrying out prior testing to assess the effect of the proposed abstraction on other sources. Since 1993, there has been a two-tier scheme in place to fund these activities and handle all abstraction charge applications. For the past ten years, this has consisted of an annual £135 charge for a full abstraction licence and a £1500 transfer application charge.

What are the Changes?


Going forward, there will be a base charge to cover the costs of Environment Agency activities on behalf of all licence holders and further charges for individual businesses that it is required to carry out additional work for.

By implementing this change, the Environment Agency has stated that it expects the scheme to be fairer, ensuring high-volume users pay more while bringing in an additional £25 million annually to recover the cost of its water resources services. According to the organisation, this funding is needed to secure sustainable water resources for the environment, business and society.

All businesses must hold a licence to abstract more than 20 cubic metres of water per day from either a river, stream, canal or groundwater, with charges coming into effect as of the 1st April 2022. The new charges will be based on:

  • The volume of water taken from the environment
  • Where the water has been abstracted from
  • The volume of water that is then returned to the environment

How to Reduce Abstraction Charges?


Thanks to the progress of recycling techniques, wastewater is now a fully recoverable resource. Water reuse is an important issue for businesses in all sectors that are looking to optimise their consumption and costs, but particularly for industrial plants that require vast amounts of water for their operations. Implementing water reuse processes can help these businesses to limit the volume of water they extract from the environment.

There are several processes and technologies available to achieve water reuse, typically combined depending on the requirements of the individual facility. These are:

  • Biological and physicochemical treatment
  • Clarification
  • Gravity and/or membrane filtration
  • Evaporation
  • Disinfection

At VWT UK, we are ideally positioned as a wastewater treatment specialist with the ability and technology to build and tailor water reuse lines to meet the needs of each customer and comply with all applicable regulations. Integrating standard water reuse processes with water treatment technologies such as reverse osmosis (RO), ultrafiltration and nanofiltration, we have an extensive range of solutions to support and enhance our customers’ operations. These technologies can span multiple markets and are scalable to solve any abstraction issues, whatever the size of the business.

For example, VWT UK has installed a MegaRO™ system at a large-scale dairy manufacturer to recover 200m3 per day of process wastewater, replacing the mains water in the cleaning in place (CIP) system. The first project in the UK’s dairy industry to use RO to recycle water, the solution’s low operating cost meant that water was recovered at a lower cost than sourcing mains water. In fact, the net savings made from reducing its mains water consumption enabled the MegaRO™ plant to pay for itself in just two and a half years.

This is just one example of how investing in effective wastewater treatment solutions to reuse water can deliver long-term cost savings for a customer’s operations. With the cost for abstracting water set to significantly increase for high volume users, it is crucial that businesses look to reduce their dependence on water taken directly from the natural environment through solutions provided from a wastewater treatment specialist such as VWT UK.

Discuss with an expert how we can assist you with water reuse: 



Peter Brewer

About the Author

Peter Brewer

Peter Brewer currently operates as Business Director for Veolia Water Technologies UK. Peter is instrumental in the development and execution of Technology Projects, heading up teams in site management, project management and more. He is responsible for managers and engineers alike, maintaining and facilitating multiple facets of the company.