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If you have received a water abstraction return notification on 31/10/2017 please do not complete or return the forms received. This return form was automatically generated from our IT returns system and sent to licence holders in error. We apologise for this mistake.

Your water abstraction licence will usually ask you to accurately measure or assess the quantity of water you abstract. The record of water abstraction you send to us is known as a ‘return’.

How does the data from your water abstraction return help us?

Your data is important and is used by Natural Resources Wales to:

  • Accurately assess the impact of abstraction on river flows, groundwater levels and water dependent habitats, species and sites
  • Assess present and future demands for water
  • Allocate spare resources to other abstractors
  • Provide information on water usage
  • Check that licence holders are complying with their licence conditions

What is changing in Wales?

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is now responsible for the returns process for water abstractors in Wales.

This was previously administered, on our behalf, by the Environment Agency (EA) and they will still administer this process for water abstractors in England.

From now on, abstractors in Wales will receive notifications to submit returns from NRW. If you also hold licences in England, you will continue to receive separate return notifications from the EA.

Delegated Licences: Management of licences which authorise abstractions within both Wales and England (including returns) have been delegated to either NRW or the EA. If you hold a delegated licence you will have previously been notified.

How will I know when to complete my return?

If you have recently provided us with an email address, we will email you a notification (from when it’s time to fill in your return.

If you have not provided us with an email address, we will need to send you a notification by post.

Accurate and timely returns sent by email will help us keep costs down and avoid potential increases to future licence charges to recover return administration costs. It will also be more efficient and less costly for you.

To receive email notifications please complete and return the reply slip provided with your paper return notification. If you have not received a reply slip please contact us via email at or by telephone on 0300 065 3000 and provide the following information:

  • Licence number(s)
  • Licence Holder name and address
  • Email address

Note: For electronic returns you will need Excel 2007 or a newer version and your email security settings must allow emails with attached Excel files from

How do I fill in my abstraction return?

We have produced a new water abstraction returns spreadsheet to capture all the data we need. We want to help you complete your return as efficiently and accurately as possible. New guidance to support you is available:

If no water has been abstracted, a ‘nil’ return must be completed and submitted.

Deadlines for submitting water abstraction returns

To make sure you comply with your licence conditions, you are required to submit returns within 28 days of receiving a notification from us.

NRW notifies you to complete a return Deadline to submit your return

End of March*

28th April

End of October*

28th November

*Unfortunately NRW has experienced some delays with the roll out of the new system and process to accommodate the changes detailed above. As a result:

  • The March and October 2016 return notifications to abstractors in Wales are delayed until February 2017
  • The March 2017 return notifications are anticipated to be delayed until June 2017

No delays are anticipated from the October 2017 return notifications onwards.

Thank you for your continued patience during this change.

What happens if I don’t submit a return?

If you fail to send us your completed, accurate water abstraction return within 28 days of receiving notification to submit, we will record this as a breach of your licence conditions. This may lead to enforcement action being taken against you.

In addition:

  • If you abstract water for irrigation and hold a two-part tariff agreement, your abstraction charge will be calculated based on the quantity you are licensed to use, not your actual usage. This will cost you more money. We do not give rebates for late submissions
  • If your licence has a time limit, you may not be able to renew it
  • We may assume that you no longer need your licence and may take action to cancel it
  • Future abstraction charges may be increased, to cover the extra costs of following up on non-submission of returns

What happens if my circumstances have changed?

If your circumstances or need for water have changed, you can apply to vary or cancel your abstraction licence. Information and guidance to help you is available at Applying to Change an Existing Abstraction or Impoundment Licence

Any questions?

If you have any questions about your return, please contact us via telephone on 0300 065 3000, by email at
or at the address below:

Customer Care Centre
Natural Resources Wales
Tŷ Cambria, 29 Newport Road
Cardiff CF24 OTP

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