Deadline looms for Scottish water abstraction returns

Data returns form a vital part of the licence requirement for abstracting water and data is expected from each operator, even if it’s a nil return
Data returns form a vital part of the licence requirement for abstracting water and data is expected from each operator, even if it’s a nil return

Growers that hold a water abstraction licence have been urged to send their data returns to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency by 31 December.

Data should be sent to the body in just over two weeks time but only 20 percent of expected returns have been received so far, NFU Scotland says.

Data returns are a mandatory requirement for licence holders, to ensure abstraction of water doesn’t impact on the ecology of Scotland’s rivers and reservoirs.

The data is also a key indicator of compliance and forms an important component of SEPA’s annual Compliance Assessment Scheme.



To date (13 December), only 20% of the expected data returns have been received.

At this point last year, however, more than 50 percent of returns were in, the farm union says.



Data returns form a vital part of the licence requirement for abstracting water and data is expected from each operator, even if it’s a nil return.

Those who do not return data by the 31 December could be liable to enforcement action, resulting in a penalty being applied to support scheme payments administered by the Scottish government.

To avoid such penalties, NFU Scotland is encouraging licence holders to check their paperwork and submit the data returns.

When planning for the 2020 season, licence holders who do not intend to abstract water for irrigation can apply for a cessation of charges by notifying their local SEPA office before the end of February, using the notification form on the SEPA webpage.

NFUS environmental regulations policy manager, Jenny Brunton said: “We want to remind those licence holders yet to submit data that they can do so in a paper form to the office stated on their licence or submit electronically by email.

“Even if no water has been abstracted for any period, a nil return must still be submitted to SEPA using the abstraction data returns form.

“It is important that data returns are submitted to SEPA in order to allow them to make an accurate assessment of the impact of irrigation on watercourses over the summer.



“We remind members that a failure to submit data returns is considered a non-compliance with the conditions of the licence and could affect payments under the Basic Payment Scheme or result in a Cross-Compliance inspection.”

Completing and submitting a data return is a simple process. The document can be downloaded and can either be posted or emailed to WRDataReturns@sepa.org.uk.