In May 2018, as part of the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan, the Minister announced that the East Suffolk Catchment will be one of the four initial pilot catchments for testing innovative approaches to reforming water abstractio. See Water Abstraction Plan: Catchment Focus. This not only recognises the importance of our precious water resources for public consumption, our economy, farming and the environment, but also gives a national profile for the well-established Holistic Water Management Project. See the Abstraction Reform Pilot Initial Meeting Minutes.

The Felixstowe Peninsula Proposal requires imaginative re-thinking of the current water resources regulatory framework.

Water resources regulations could also be improved to help landowners in the rest of the Deben catchment make more effective use of their existing abstraction licences and at the same time provide better environmental protection through trading or sharing resources. This project is running alongside Defra’s Abstraction Reform programme. The Environment Agency’s Abstraction Reform team is maintaining close links with the group and providing advice and support to help ensure proposals remain consistent with Defra’s aspirations and to evaluate how aspects of abstraction reform work in a ‘live’ setting.

The East Suffolk Water Abstractors Group (ESWAG) has identified a number of land owners who are keen to share their abstraction licences and they are discussing possible regulatory options with the Environment Agency to facilitate this.

Licence Trading and Reform

There have been meetings between ESWAG and the Environment Agency to discuss what options are available for flexibility in the regulation of abstraction in the Deben catchment (click here to view the meeting notes). It was agreed to try and find a couple of examples of genuine need for flexibility and for these to then be worked through to highlight problems and solutions (one example is currently being worked on). The project has also discussed the proposals with the Environment Agency’s abstraction reform team who are very interested in the work being undertaken and the possibilities of it helping to inform the current reform options being considered by DEFRA.

Following the very successful “Water: Farming’s Essential Ingredient” workshop, in July 2016, organised by the East Suffolk Water Abstractors Group (ESWAG), a meeting was arranged on 19 August between representatives of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd (Chairman), Charlie Beardall (Area Manager)and Jonathan Thompson (Environment Planning Team Leader); ESWAG, Tim Darby, James Foskett and Doug Inglis; and Paul Hammett of the NFU. This meeting allowed some of the issues and challenges that came out of the workshop to be shared with the Environment Agency at the highest level, subjects such as abstraction reform, deterioration, trading and time limited licensing were discussed. The next stage is for ESWAG members and the EA to further discuss possible areas of mutual interest on how more sustainable and secure water resources can be achieved in the Deben and East Suffolk area.

East Suffolk Water Abstractors Group –  Review of Irrigation Demand and Supply

The ESWAG Report – Review of Irrigation Demand and Supply builds on the ‘2013 ESWAG Water Strategy’ produced by Cranfield University. The report uses local abstraction returns to calculate a supply and demand forecast for spray irrigation in the ESWAG area for the next 35 years.

Sub Group Contacts:

Jonathan Thompson, Environment Agency – Email:

Tim Darby, East Suffolk Water Abstractors Group – Email: