Growers warned that legislation on drip irrigation likely next year

Nursery consultant John Adlam warns that environmental damage may lead to withheld licences.

Legislation affecting growers using drip irrigation is likely to come into force next year, nursery consultant John Adlam has advised.

Dove Associates managing director Adlam warned growers at a British Ornamental Plant Producers (BOPP) technical seminar that licences may not be granted in cases where there is environmental damage.

Drip or trickle irrigation is not categorised as a means of watering in the Water Resources Act 1991, resulting in the understanding that drip irrigation is outside the legislation, he explained. The Water Act 2003 addressed the situation and brought trickle and drip irrigation into the licensing regime, but implementation has been stop-start, he said. Defra and the Environment Agency have again put back the date for addressing this matter to late 2013.

"Under the terms of the Water Act 2003, there will be a presumption of renewal if you have been taking drip-irrigation water, but it is not guaranteed," said Adlam. "If it can be proven that there is environmental damage, the licence may not be granted."

But he added that in most cases it is likely that a licence will be granted. "Do tell the Environment Agency if you are taking drip-irrigation water. If they know you have been taking it, then it will be taken into account in their monitoring and it proves you have been using it. It is worth telling them and it will help you with your case."

Adlam also told growers at the BOPP seminar that the availability of water is decreasing and he discussed changes to the water-abstraction licensing regime set out in the water white paper.

"We need to be looking at sources of water that we wouldn't have looked at previously and ask how we can make them fit for purpose," he said. He added that part of the new licensing regime is to make licence trading, which can be difficult in practice, more attractive.

Adlam warned that under the terms of the Water Act 2003 there is provision for the Environment Agency to revoke unused licenses or reduce unused portions of a licence if it is not used for four or more years. "The phrase 'use it or loose it' rules in this situation," he said.

He added that the Flood & Water Management Act 2010 will amend the Reservoirs Act 1975 when it is implemented, reducing the size of reservoir that comes under the legislation from 25,000cu m to 10,000cu m.

Legionella: Health & Safety Executive inspections increasing

Dove Associates managing director John Adlam told growers at the British Ornamental Plant Producers technical seminar that Health & Safety Executive inspections looking at legionella are rising.

"I'm getting quite a few calls about it but it isn't as serious as the officers think," he said. "No staff on any nursery have been recorded as affected. I don't think we have a major problem, but you need to be ready for officers when they come to show that you have dealt with it."

He added that growers have to be aware of the issues that allow bacteria to proliferate to show inspectors that they have dealt with them. Problematic issues include static warm water, untreated recycled water, tanks in tunnels and glasshouses, mist propagation lines, propagation fogging systems and un-drained spray lines.

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