Guidance

Apply for a drought order or emergency drought order

How to apply for a drought order or an emergency drought order if you're a water company.

Drought orders are issued by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or the Welsh ministers. They are valid for up to 6 months and can be extended for a further 6 months.

Emergency drought orders are issued by the Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers. They are valid for up to 3 months and can be extended for a further 2 months. To apply for an emergency drought order, follow the same process you would for an ordinary drought order, plus the additional steps for applying for an emergency drought order.

Make sure you’re ready to apply

Before applying for a drought order you should:

  • check that you’re eligible to apply - including that you can prove you’re in drought and there are no other sources you can use to maintain supply
  • check that your drought plan supports your application – you should provide a reason for your application if it doesn’t
  • carry out the measures to reduce demand for water set out in your drought plan – you should explain why if you haven’t carried them out
  • write an environmental report

When you’re preparing your application you must contact:

  • the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) or the Welsh Government to discuss your proposals
  • the relevant navigation authority for its advice on whether consent is needed - you may need consent if your application is likely to affect inland navigation
  • the relevant area Environment Agency team on 03708 506 506 to discuss your discuss proposals if you’re applying to use an order in England
  • the Water Resources Planning team in Natural Resources Wales on 0300 065 3000 if you’re applying to use an order in Wales
  • both the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales if the order could affect both England and Wales
  • Natural England or Natural Resources Wales (and National Parks authorities, if relevant) if your application is likely to affect a statutory designated site, such as a Habitats Directive site, Ramsar site, site of special scientific interest (SSSI), local nature reserve (LNR), national nature reserve (NNR) or marine conservation area (MCA)

Tell others about your application

You must follow the same process for telling relevant organisations about your application as you would for a drought permit.

If you’re applying for a drought order you’re most likely to need to send written notice to:

  • the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales
  • local authorities (except English county councils) responsible for areas affected by the order
  • local authorities (except English county councils) and internal drainage boards with water sources or discharge points in areas affected by the order
  • other water companies and abstractors operating in areas affected by the order
  • any organisations protected by a statutory requirement (for example, for compensation water) that the order suspends or modifies
  • navigation authorities responsible for any watercourse affected by the order

State clearly that any objections relating to England must be sent to water.resources@defra.gsi.gov.uk or:

Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Water Supply and Regulation Division
Area 2C
Ergon House
Horseferry Road
London
SW1P 2AL

State clearly that any objections relating to Wales must be sent to water@wales.gsi.gov.uk or:

Welsh Government
Department for the Environment and Sustainability
Climate Change and Water Division
Water Policy Branch
Cathays Park
Cardiff
CF10 3NQ

Objections must be received within 7 days of the notice being served.

You must follow the same process for advertising your drought order application as you would for a drought permit.

What to include in your application

Your application must include:

  • a technical description of how you’ll use the order
  • a map clearly showing where you’ll use the order, unless it’s for restricting the non-essential use of water
  • 2 copies of the map, if required by the order
  • an explanation of why you need the order

Your explanation of why you need the order must set out:

  • evidence of an exceptional shortage of rain - include monthly rainfall figures compared with the long-term average for the area
  • the effects of the current water shortage
  • how many people are affected by the shortage
  • daily demand on the affected water source
  • what you’ve done so far to reduce demand and the effect it’s had
  • the number and type of drought measures you’ve carried out during the last 5 years
  • any purposes under the Drought Direction 2011 that the order will specify, including who will be affected - this only applies to orders to restrict the non-essential use of water

Your application must also include:

  • your environmental report
  • a copy of the notices and advertisements you produced in relation to your application (or certification from a solicitor that the notices appeared on a specified date)
  • comments from the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and, if relevant, the navigation authority
  • a copy of any existing abstraction licence you hold - also provide a copy of any statutory instrument or local act connected to it or to a discharge permitted by the drought order
  • a copy of any relevant water resource management arrangements
  • a draft of the proposed order - include an electronic copy compatible with Microsoft Word

You’ll also need to provide:

  • details of everything you’ve done in the past 5 years to reduce leaks in your distribution system - say how effective these measures have been and what plans you have to improve your leakage reduction targets
  • an assessment of the costs and benefits of the order and a description of how you’ll monitor its effects - this only applies to orders that restrict non-essential uses of water
  • an assessment of the likely effects of the order on the quality of the river and other licensed abstractions - this only applies to orders for reducing residual river flows

If you want to use the order to get water from a new source, you should confirm that the water’s quality (after treatment if necessary) makes it suitable for public supply.

You must also provide details of your plans for dealing with water shortages in both:

  • the area covered by the order
  • the wider supply area

Include information on timings, publicity activities and how you’ll work with any interested people or organisations.

You must also provide any necessary extra information if the order is likely to affect a statutory designated site. Follow the same process you would for a drought permit.

Send your application

You must submit your application to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or the Welsh ministers. You should do this by letter, email, on a CD-ROM or DVD, or via a secure electronic transfer (contact Defra or the Welsh Government to find out how to do this). You should:

  • provide 2 complete sets of documents if you’re sending a paper submission
  • send any electronic documents in Microsoft Office or compatible format
  • send paper copies instead of electronic files if the electronic files are so large that they could be difficult to download
  • send any confidential or sensitive information separately, using encryption if necessary
  • check that the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales have received your application

Withdraw your application

Telephone officials at Defra or the Welsh Government as soon as possible if you want to withdraw a drought order application. You should also:

  • send them written confirmation of your decision to withdraw your application within 3 days
  • send out a press release about your decision to withdraw your application
  • tell anyone who objected to your application that you’re withdrawing it

Get a decision on your application

Once your application is received, you’ll usually get a decision within 28 days if there are no objections or complications.

You’ll receive the decision in an email or letter from the Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers. 
Once a decision has been made, no changes can be made to it. The Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers will also tell:

  • the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales
  • anyone who objected to your application

To get a decision quickly, you should:

  • provide proof that you’ve published your application - send this to officials as soon as possible
  • respond promptly to any questions from officials
  • provide any other information that officials ask for - send this by email and, if asked for, on paper
  • prepare in advance by identifying possible drought order applications in your drought plan and making sure these applications are ready to send off

What to do if there’s a hearing or public inquiry

As soon as they receive your drought order application, officials at Defra or the Welsh ministers will contact the Planning Inspectorate to start arrangements for a hearing or inquiry. This will happen even if no objections are made against your application.

If a hearing or inquiry is needed, you’ll get a letter that will tell you:

  • what happens in the hearing or inquiry
  • what documents you’ll need to provide

The Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers may hold a hearing or inquiry whether or not there are objections to your application.

Resolve objections

Officials at Defra or the Welsh Government will send you a copy of each objection they receive. You may then resolve issues with the objectors to reach an agreement and avoid a hearing or inquiry.

You can avoid this and speed up the process by discussing possible issues and reaching agreement with objectors when you’re writing your drought plan.

You should tell officials at Defra or the Welsh Government immediately if an objection is withdrawn.

When a hearing or inquiry is needed

Once the Secretary of State or Welsh ministers have decided a hearing or inquiry is needed it will take place unless:

  • you withdraw your application
  • all the objectors withdraw their objections
  • the Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers decide not to hold it

The Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers may decide not to hold a hearing or inquiry if the objection:

  • can be dealt with by compensation instead
  • has already been made against a drought order that the current application seeks to extend

Get a drought order urgently

If there’s an urgent need for a drought order the Secretary of State or Welsh ministers may decide that a hearing or inquiry shouldn’t go ahead. To request this, you should submit a full supporting case, explaining why the need is urgent. A hearing or inquiry will only be waived in extreme cases to meet an overriding public interest.

Arrange a hearing or inquiry

If the hearing or inquiry goes ahead you’ll be asked to arrange a venue for it. This should be one of the following:

  • a suitable hall
  • a room in a hotel
  • one of your own offices

Let officials know once a venue is confirmed. They will tell any interested people or organisations about the date, time and venue.

Send a statement of fact

You should agree the factual basis of your case with any objectors before a hearing or inquiry. Set out the factual basis in a document (this is known as a ‘statement of fact’) and send it to the person running the hearing or inquiry. This will help prevent disputes during the hearing or inquiry on factual matters (such as rainfall data).

You should also tell the person running the hearing or inquiry about anything that occurred after you sent your application that needs to be considered (such as a change of weather or changes in rainfall).

What happens at the hearing or inquiry

The person running the hearing or inquiry will decide on its structure. However, the procedure is usually as follows:

  • you’re asked to speak first
  • objectors are then asked to speak – they may give evidence or ask questions (questions will normally be channelled through the person running the hearing or inquiry, who may also ask questions of their own)
  • you’re given an opportunity to make closing comments

The person running the hearing or inquiry may make an informal site visit beforehand to find out more about the affected area.

After the hearing or inquiry

After the hearing or inquiry, the person who ran it will submit a report to the Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers.

The report will set out:

  • who objected at the hearing or inquiry and what they said
  • your response to each objection, including answers to any questions
  • the decision of the person who ran the hearing or inquiry, including findings, suggested modifications and conclusions

The Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers will then make a decision about the drought order.

After you’ve received your drought order

You must advertise a successful application in:

  • the London Gazette
  • the same local newspaper where you advertised your application

Contact the London Gazette at gazettecomments@tso.co.uk or:

PO Box 7923
London
SE1 5ZH
Phone: 020 7394 4517

Your advertisement must specify where the order can be inspected (these should be the same places where you made your application available for inspection).

Pay compensation

As the applicant, you’re liable to pay compensation for any loss or damage caused by a drought order. Any of the following can claim compensation:

  • the owners of the water source associated with the drought order
  • anyone with an interest in the source

Anyone applying for compensation must send you their claim within 6 months of the expiry of the order.

You should refer any disputes about compensation to the Lands Tribunal.

Your customers have no legal right to compensation due to loss or damage caused by a drought order. However, you can make payments to them in the circumstances set out in your Instrument of Appointment as a water undertaker.

Pay back costs

The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales can charge you for dealing with your drought order application. See information on paying back costs.

Extend your drought order

You can apply to extend your drought order for up to 6 months. Contact the Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers at least 28 days before the existing order expires if you wish to do this. Include all supporting materials with your application, including any relevant new evidence.

Once your application is received, you’ll usually get a decision within:

  • 7 calendar days if there are no objections to your application
  • 28 calendar days if a hearing or inquiry takes place

The Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers may disregard any objections that only apply to the original drought order and not the extension.

Cancel your drought order

You can cancel your drought order at any time, including removing any prohibitions or restrictions.

Offences

You must not take, use or discharge water unless you’re authorised to.

You must:

  • build or maintain any apparatus for measuring water flow that’s required by a drought order
  • allow authorised people to inspect the water system or examine or take copies of records connected to it

You could be fined if you can’t show that you took all reasonable precautions and did everything you could to avoid committing these offences.

It’s also an offence to knowingly or recklessly make false statements to get a drought order.

Apply for an emergency drought order

Before applying for an emergency drought order you should try to:

  • conserve and improve water resources
  • do everything you can to reduce demand for water
  • publicise your decision to use an emergency drought order
  • make as much use as possible of ordinary drought orders and drought permits

The Secretary of State or the Welsh ministers will ask you for evidence that you’ve taken these steps. If you didn’t have the time to take them, you must be able to prove this.

Send your application

You must send the same items in your applications as you would for an ordinary drought order, plus:

  • an analysis of average daily water consumption broken down by type and consumer
  • details of the threat to economic and social well-being in the area (for example, for elderly and disabled people, hospitals and health services, agriculture and food production)
  • an explanation of why an ordinary drought order isn’t suitable - this only applies to emergency drought orders for prohibiting or limiting the use of water
  • details of any drought order already in force that affects the area - say whether you want to revoke or modify it
  • a draft of the emergency drought order in a format compatible with Microsoft Word

If you’re applying for an emergency drought order to supply water through standpipes or water tanks, provide details of:

  • what you’ll do with the emergency order, including the number of people who’ll be served by each standpipe or water tank
  • the manpower needed to carry out the work and run the standpipes or water tank
  • how you’ll supply water to non-domestic users
Published 19 November 2015