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Drought policy in Wales

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What we are doing to manage water resources effectively to ensure we continue to have a thriving water environment in Wales.

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Water is important to people and the environment and we all have a responsibility to use it wisely in our businesses, industry and homes. Using water wisely can also help save you money. 

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In Wales we need to effectively manage our water resources to ensure we can plan for and respond to increasing pressures on our supplies. Pressure on water can be caused by an increase in population, changing household demands and climate change. In 2017 we published the following documents:

  • the Welsh Government Guiding Principles for Developing Water Undertakers Drought Plans for 2020 
  • the Drought Plan (Wales) Direction 2017.

These documents set out how water companies will continue, during a period of drought, to discharge their duties to supply adequate quantities of wholesome water, with as little recourse as reasonably possible to drought orders or drought permits.

Current position in Wales

Currently, there is no drought in Wales.

We work with water companies and Natural Resources Wales to manage and monitor water resources in Wales. This will allow us to respond appropriately should the situation change. 

Key Organisations in Wales

The Welsh Government

We are responsible for developing water resources policy and legislation  in Wales. This includes legislation on hosepipe bans, drought orders and drought permit.

We consider and determined drought order applications.

We work with Natural Resources Wales,  the water companies  to ensure that the situation is monitored closely to protect public water supply and avoid damage to the environment.

Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales has a statutory duty to manage water resources in Wales. They monitor the water resource situation closely to ensure any future development of our water resources is carried out sustainably and managed responsibly. They also consider and determine applications for grant drought permits.

In addition to this, Natural Resources Wales aims to ensure that any impacts of water resources limitations on wildlife and the natural environment are considered. They also advise on any actions that can be taken to lessen these impacts.

Water companies

Water companies have the power to impose temporary restrictions on certain uses of water (also known as hosepipe bans) without the consent of the Welsh Government or Natural Resources Wales. This power enables them to react quickly to conserve water within their operating areas. 

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Visit: Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water (external link)


Temporary restrictions on water usage (hosepipe bans)

Section 36 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 amended Section 76 of the Water Industry Act 1991. Together with The Water Use (Temporary Bans) Order 2010 it provides water companies with powers to make temporary bans on the use of hosepipes for certain purposes and to make temporary bans on the use of water (with or without the use of a hosepipe) for certain purposes.

Drought permits, drought orders and emergency drought orders

This Guidance for Water companies on how to apply for a drought permit, drought order and emergency drought order has been published jointly by the Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales, Defra and the Environment Agency.

Further information is available on the  Natural Resources Wales website (external link) 

Drought Permits

If a drought situation continues:

  • water companies may have to take further steps to ensure they can continue to supply their customers.
  • apply to Natural Resources Wales for a drought permit 
  • Drought permits can only be granted if Natural Resources Wales is satisfied they are needed because of an extended dry period. 
  • They are only granted for certain periods and may only be renewed for limited periods.

Drought Orders

In a severe drought:

  • water company may apply to the Welsh Ministers for a drought order 
  • this would give them more permissions than a drought permit and restrict the non-essential use of water. 
  • drought orders are only granted for certain periods and may only be renewed for limited periods.

The Drought Direction 2011 specifies the uses of water which can be banned under a drought order.

Drought Plans

The Water Act 2003 makes it a legal requirement for water companies to prepare, maintain and publish drought plans.