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United Utilities applies for continuation of water licence

Thirlmere

United Utilities has applied to the Environment Agency for a continuation of an environmental licence, which allows the water company to abstract water from boreholes in West Cumbria to maintain the water supply network.

The current licence, which was issued in 2015, allows the water company to take up to 11 mega litres of water a day from the boreholes at Egremont until March 2019. When this expires in the amount will drop to 8 mega litres a day.

United Utilities has applied to the Environment Agency to allow the water company to continue to take 11 mega litres of water in the future, if needed, to help maintain a resilient water supply to West Cumbria and protect the sensitive natural environment.

Sharon Kennedy, the Environment Agency’s Environment Manager for Cumbria, said: “The Environment Agency licenses the amount of water United Utilities can abstract from Egremont boreholes to boost their water supply network.

“United Utilities has applied to the Environment Agency to continue its licence and we are currently reviewing the information and have advertised the potential changes so people have the chance to have their say, before a decision is made.”

Egremont boreholes are being used as a source of water while United Utilities’ Thirlmere pipeline project is underway. The quality of drinking water is the responsibility of United Utilities and is regulated by the Drinking Water Inspectorate.

The licence variation can be viewed on the Environment Agency’s website for 28 days. A copy of the application form, map and other documents submitted with the application can be viewed at the Environment Agency’s offices in Penrith.

Martin Padley, Water Services Director at United Utilities, said: “This does not change the way we are managing water supplies in West Cumbria.  It allows us to continue the agreement we reached following consultation with the Environment Agency and other stakeholders in 2017.

“We are committed to maintaining a blend of 20 per cent borehole water and 80 per cent Ennerdale water when levels in the lake are high enough.

“However, last year’s hot dry summer showed how variable the availability of water resources can be, and the importance of a resilient water supply. This continuation of our temporary licence will give us access to sufficient water should there be any repeat of these extreme weather conditions.

“Longer term, after 2022 when our new West Cumbria water supply scheme is completed, we will supply the area with water from Thirlmere reservoir.”

There is an opportunity for people to let us know about anything relevant we should take into account when considering the application. Relevant issues we can take into account include:

  • Environmental effects.
  • Effect on the protected water rights of existing licence holders and lawful water users.
  • Consistency with our water resources strategy and the relevant Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy (CAMS).
  • Effect on the social and economic well-being of local communities in rural areas.
  • Sustainability and effects on biodiversity.
  • Costs and benefits of the proposal.

The Environment Agency has until 11 April to review all comments received and then publish a decision.

West Cumbria currently gets all its water from local lakes and boreholes, unlike much of the rest of the North West which is part of United Utilities’ large Integrated Resource Zone. Water is moved around this extensive network to supply households from a variety of sources, including large reservoirs.

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