Dewatering building sites and other excavations: environmental permits
- Environment Agency and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
- Part of:
- Environmental permits: regulatory position statements, Water quality, Business and the environment, Environmental permits, and Water
- First published:
- 1 February 2016
- Applies to:
- England (see guidance for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales)
When you don't need a permit for a temporary discharge of uncontaminated water (eg rainwater) from an excavation to surface water.
You usually need a permit if you discharge liquid or waste water (poisonous, noxious or polluting matter, waste matter, or trade or sewage effluent) into surface water, eg rivers, streams, estuaries, lakes, canals or coastal waters.
However, if you have a temporary discharge of uncontaminated water from an excavation to surface water (eg, pumping water out of excavations on a building site) and comply with the conditions in this guidance you don’t need to apply for a permit.
You don’t currently need a permit under these specific circumstances because the Environment Agency considers it to be low risk and has issued this temporary regulatory position statement (RPS).
If your water discharge is from ‘pump and treat’ (pumping out contaminated groundwater or water from contaminated land so it can be treated) or quarry activities, you need to get a bespoke permit.
Activity and conditions you must comply with
This RPS covers the discharge of uncontaminated water from excavations provided the discharge complies with all of the following conditions.
The discharge must:
- be temporary and last less than 3 consecutive months
- be made to a surface water (such as a river, stream or the sea)
- not pollute surface water or adversely affect aquatic life, or designated sites or species
- not result in the spread of non-native invasive species, parasites or disease
- not cause flooding from surface water
- not cause erosion of the banks or bed of surface water
The discharge must not be located within, or less than 500 metres upstream of:
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
- Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
- Special Protection Areas (SPA)
- sites in the process of becoming SACs or SPAs (known as ‘candidate SACs’, ‘possible SACs’, ‘potential SPAs’ and ‘sites of community importance (SCIs)’
- internationally designated Ramsar sites
- other nature conservation sites, for example ancient woodlands, Local and National Nature Reserves - check the map for these
- local wildlife sites, ie sites designated as having high local value for wildlife – contact your local authority
Contact the Environment Agency if your discharge rate is more than 10% of the dry weather flow rate of the surface water. A high discharge rate may increase flood risk or have other local environmental consequences.
You must apply for a bespoke permit if you can’t meet these conditions.
Comply with the regulatory position statement
An RPS means that the Environment Agency will not normally take enforcement action against you if you haven’t applied for a permit, provided:
- your activity meets the description set out in this RPS
- you comply with the conditions set out in this RPS
- your activity doesn’t (and isn’t likely to) cause environmental pollution or harm human health
When to check back
This RPS will be reviewed by April 2017.
You’ll need to check back every time you use the RPS to see whether the statement still applies or if you need to apply for a permit.
Contact the Environment Agency
Contact the Environment Agency if you need help.
National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
Telephone 03708 506 506
Telephone from outside the UK (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm GMT) +44 (0) 114 282 5312
Minicom (for the hard of hearing) 03702 422 549
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm