Drones used against illegal abstractions
The Environment Agency is to use drones to gather information about illegal water abstractions in East Anglia’s fenland.
It currently manages abstractions during dry weather by balancing the needs of the environment with the rights of water users. Officers carry out high visibility patrols throughout the irrigation season to make sure landowners and farmers aren’t breaching their licence conditions and causing harm to the environment. During last year’s heatwave, a number of licence holders failed to adhere to their conditions, and this year some illegal abstractions have already been discovered.
Andrew Chapman, environment planning specialist for the Environment Agency in East Anglia, commented: “This will be the first time we have ever used drones for this purpose. The majority of irrigators do operate within their licence conditions. However, last year a minority of farmers did not play by the rules and severely restricted other people’s ability to irrigate their crops.”
The drones will connect to a web portal so Agency staff can monitor the images and direct the device. If irrigators are found to be abstracting illegally, enforcement action will be taken in the form of written warnings, civil sanctions, referral to the Rural Payments Agency or prosecution.
Extra Agency officers will be used to warn licence holders at risk of water restrictions about possible shortages, and carry out inspections in riskier catchments where more intense abstraction takes place.