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Farmers are to be allowed to trade water allowances as part of Environment Agency efforts to support farms dealing with the pressures of the ongoing hot, dry weather. 

Following the driest June since 1925 and a dry July, farmers have reported water supply concerns which could affect the irrigation of crops and welfare of livestock.

As the National Farmers Union’s drought summit took place, EA issued guidance to farmers detailing options to flex abstraction licences in serious cases, and on a short-term basis.

In severe cases where there is a real or imminent threat to crops and livestock, the EA may temporarily allow additional, emergency abstraction. Each case will be assessed to minimise impacts to the environment or the rights of other water users

Paul Hickey, head of water resources, Environment Agency said: "We know that farmers are facing considerable pressures in responding to drought conditions and we want to support them by allowing them to flex their abstraction licences in the most serious cases to safeguard food production and animal welfare.

"We must also balance farmers’ needs with those of wildlife and other water users so we will only allow these arrangements where we are satisfied there won’t be any adverse effects on the environment.

"As the hot, dry weather is set to continue we urge everyone to use water wisely to protect the environment and help prevent the need for water restrictions.

The EA is to fast-track the process to enable farmers to act quickly and arrangements will be agreed locally where the EA is satisfied that there will not be any adverse effects on the environment or the rights of other lawful water users. The agency also monitors river flow and will maximise access to water when it is available, such as following heavy rain.

The EA said it will continue to carry out compliance checks on abstraction licences to ensure that abstractors keep to their licences and any agreed flexible arrangements.

The temporary arrangements do not apply to water companies as they are able to use a variety of drought measures defined in law to manage droughts and public water supply. The EA works closely with water companies to ensure they are following drought plans and implementing actions to conserve water.

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