Bewl Water reservoir is a key source of drinking water for many thousands of people across Kent and East Sussex. The drought permit allows Southern Water to continue pumping water from the River Medway system into Bewl when the river has lower flows than the company’s usual permit to take water would allow. The permit lasts until the end of March this year.

The EA says the consequences of the permit will only be felt by farmers and growers “… who are authorised to abstract so as to fill winter storage reservoirs over the coming weeks.” The impact on these abstractions will depend on their “minimum residual flow”conditions. Those with more recently issued “hands off flow” constraints will not be affected by the permit.

The EA confirmned that spray irrigators would not be affected by Southern Water’s permit application. Bewl is currently around 50% full. Southern Water hopes that the permit will help it to increase the reservoir’s water level to 75% by 1 April 2018, thereby securing sufficient supplies for the spring and summer.

The NFU is in close contact with Southern Water and the EA about the arrangements at Bewl which could impact on members if the current permit is extended into the irrigation season.

*NFU South East is running a briefing on the new licensing arrangements for trickle irrigation, which came into force this January.

Speakers will include two senior officials from the Environment Agency to explain the application process and Paul Hammett, NFU water resources specialist.

The meetings are on Thursday 15 February, 4 – 6pm, Growtrain, Woodhorn Lane, Oving, Chichester, West Sussex PO20 2BX; and Friday 16 February, 10am -12pm, LJ Betts Ltd, Church Farm, Church Road, Offham, West Malling, Kent ME19 5NZ.