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Restoring Sustainable Abstraction (RSA)

Find out about how we have been protecting the environment from unsustainable abstraction

What is Restoring Sustainable Abstraction (RSA)?

The RSA programme has successfully worked with licence holders to reduce the amount of water taken from the environment. It also works with them to prevent and reduce damage to the environment in other ways, such as by:  

  • Moving or swapping existing licensed abstractions (for example moving a larger abstraction downstream and a smaller one upstream)
  • Seeking alternative solutions that use water more efficiently and less harmfully
  • Ensuring only water that is needed is allowed to be taken. This prevents damage to the environment eg by removing risk to European designated Habitats Directive sites
  • Placing conditions on licences that allow water to be taken at times when it is least likely to harm the environment
  • Committing licence holders to reduce abstraction when there are alternative supplies
  • Working with other organisations and local groups to solve abstraction-related problems
  • Restoring physical processes for example through gravel management and habitat improvement

What we do

  • We identify, investigate and work to solve environmental risks or problems caused by unsustainable licensed water abstraction across Wales
  • We consider the level of environmental impact abstractions are causing or could cause
  • We want to work with all abstractors whose abstractions may be having an environmental impact, to find effective solutions
  • The changes we are making will restore water levels in rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and marshes. They will improve wildlife habitats and protect endangered species. They will also provide more opportunities for recreation
  • The investigations under the RSA programme have helped us identify improvements that will contribute to meeting the UK’s objectives under European Water Framework Directive (WFD). This came into force in December 2000 and became UK law in December 2003
  • RSA and WFD are closely linked. RSA contributes to work improving WFD water bodies where ecology may be at risk due to unsustainable abstraction. Water in rivers, estuaries, coasts and aquifers will improve under measures set out to deliver the WFD such as in River Basin Management Plans
  • When a licence change is needed it is done through either a voluntary change (section 51 of the Water Resources Act 1991), or a compulsory change (section 52 of the Water Resources Act 1991)

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