The Environment Agency has launched a new consultation on the draft Water Resources Planning Guideline it has prepared for the water companies to use in drawing up their Water Resource Management Plans(WRMPs). The last version of the water resources planning guideline was an update in 2017 – since that update the Agency has significantly revised the guideline. The most significant changes are that water companies:

  • should use natural capital in decision-making and provide environmental net gain through their WRMPs
  • should plan to provide a long-term destination for the environment by reducing abstraction where it is causing the most environmental damage
  • In England – are expected to be resilient to any drought of a return period of once in 500 years
  • In England – should take account of regional plans

There are also changes around baseline assumptions for demand management; updated guidance on climate change and when to consider adaptive planning. Water companies are also asked to use the drought vulnerability framework to assess their vulnerability to drought. The guideline focusses on the legal requirements and technical approaches the water companies should follow to develop a WRMP, in conjunction with any relevant government policy expectations or any specific outcomes.

The Agency said the guideline is designed to help the utilities write a plan that complies with all the relevant statutory requirements and government policy. The word ‘must’ is used in the guideline where the action is related to a statutory requirement. The Agency has highlighted the fact that where the companies do not follow a ‘must’ there is a high risk of producing a plan that is not legally compliant. The Agency has used the word ‘should,’ where it believes the action is needed to produce an adequate plan.

Click here to download the draft guideline

Click here to download the consultation response form

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