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Water abstraction returns

What is a water abstraction return?

Water Abstractions Returns (WAR) update for abstraction licence holders

Due to the dry weather that we experienced over the summer, we decided to delay the request for abstraction returns to reduce the impact on abstraction licence holders.

During November and December we will be requesting 2 years' worth of returns data from licence holders, as detailed below:


Abstraction Period


Request for returns

April 2016 - March 2017

All year

November - December 2018

November 2016 – March 2017


November to December  2018

April 2017 - October 2017


November to December 2018

April 2017 - March 2018

All year

November to December 2018

November 2017 – March 2018


November to December 2018

April 2018 - October 2018


November to December 2018

We can only accept the returns on the completed form that we will e-mail or post to you, please do not use a form that we have previously sent you or your own form.

If you have any questions then 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

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 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 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.

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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