Levels of water abstraction in England increasing, warns ONS

The volumes of water being taken out of England’s rivers and groundwater is rising and is unsustainable in some areas, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Water abstraction for public water supply increased from 6,443 million cubic metres in 2014 to 6,697 million cubic metres in 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest natural capital accounts

Demand for water is forecast to continue to rise, due to population growth in England and climate change, says the ONS, with volumes likely to keep rising.  

READ MORE: Who’s abstracting England? 

However, it noted that abstraction has dropped since 2005, an outcome the ONS believes could be the results of Water Act 2003, calling for a more efficient and sustainable use of water, as well as the installation of water meters. 

In May, Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd said current levels of abstraction are “unsustainable in more than a quarter of groundwater bodies and up to one-fifth of surface waters, reducing water levels and damaging wildlife”, but that the EA and DEFRA had plans to “address this, making full use of our regulatory powers, local knowledge and partnerships”.

The EA has also said that its ongoing piecemeal review of licences has returned large volumes of water to the environment. 

Related ENDS Compliance Content

  • Water Industry Act 1991 (As amended)

    Water Industry Act 1991 (As amended)

    In force/
    England, UK
    17 May 2012


    15/05/2014 Amending Water Act 2014 published.
    03/04/2017 Amending Order (SI 2017/506) published.

    Compliance Dates

    01/12/1991 Comes into force o





    OPSI (Office of Public Sector Information)

    Affected Sectors

    Cross-sector Water

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