Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Irrigation for young trees

Water supply for young trees

If you operate a tree nursery, short rotation coppice or grow Christmas trees, you may need to supply water to the crop to ensure that the trees develop.

You may want to:

  • construct artificial ponds or water holes
  • abstract water from rivers, streams or boreholes
  • impound water using dams or weirs.

What you must do

If you divert water you may need a licence or consent from your environmental regulator.

In Northern Ireland you may need to submit an environmental statement to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) for water management projects such as spray irrigation, if you impound, abstract or divert more than 200m³ of water a day. You may also need an abstraction or impoundment licence.

In Scotland, you may require a water abstraction licence to fill an excavated pond, but not a licence to abstract water from the pond.

You must not dam a stream without authorisation from your environmental regulator.

Water abstraction

In Northern Ireland, if you abstract more than 20m3 of water per day, you must obtain an abstraction licence from the NIEA.

If you abstract less than 20m3 of water per day you do not need an abstraction licence if you:

  • can demonstrate the volume of water you abstract
  • minimise water leaks
  • prevent any contamination or pollution.

If you abstract between 10m3 and 20m3 of water per day you must contact NIEA. If you abstract less than 10m3 you do not need to contact NIEA.

In Scotland, you must obtain authorisation from SEPA if you abstract more than 10m3 of water per day. If you abstract 10m3 or less of water per day and comply with certain general binding rules (GBRs) you do not need to contact SEPA.

You can find more detailed information in the NetRegs water use and efficiency guidance.

In Northern Ireland you can impound water without contacting NIEA provided your impoundment:

  • does not control the water level upstream
  • is not associated with an abstraction of water
  • does not create a difference in height of more than one metre between the upstream and downstream water surfaces.

You must have an impoundment licence from NIEA to impound water in all other circumstances.

In Scotland, under a general binding rule (GBR), you can operate existing passive weirs, for example a weir where the sole purpose is to raise the water level upstream, without contacting SEPA if:

  • the height difference between the upstream and downstream water surfaces is one metre or less
  • the water level cannot be varied
  • there is no impact on migratory passage of salmon or sea trout.

You will require authorisation from SEPA for the operation of all other existing weirs, dams or impoundments and to build any new weirs, dams or impoundments.

SEPA's CAR Practical Guide gives more information about GBRs and what level of authorisation you require for your activity. Contact your local SEPA office if you are unsure of which level of authorisation you need.

SEPA contact details

SEPA: CAR Practical guide (Adobe PDF - 562KB)

Good practice

If you operate a tree nursery, short rotation coppice or grow Christmas trees, you may need to construct an artificial pond or water-hole to ensure a ready supply of water.

Construct these by diverting water into an excavated pond to one side of the stream channel. You should ensure that the inlet is set at a level that will maintain sufficient flow in the watercourse during dry weather conditions.

You should only construct and maintain ponds in dry weather between June and September. This avoids salmon spawning and incubation periods.

SEPA Habitat Enhancement Initiative: Ponds, pools and lochans (Adobe PDF - 299KB)

Forestry Commission: Nature conservation guidelines

SEE ALSO: Water use and abstraction

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Permits

NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms