Speaking at the Lowaters Nursery Water Discussion Day last week, an Environment Agency representative said: "The majority of the main rivers are over abstracted and any future person looking to come into the agriculture or horticulture business will find it very difficult to get a licence for water."
The agency's regional water resource planning manager Sarah Morrison said: "Water is something that we take for granted but actually it's a precious resource and it's our responsibility at the Environment Agency to manage this resource and plan for future use."
Responding to these comments, National Horticulture Forum chair and Water Discussion Day chair Andrew Colquhoun said: "It's depressing news that there will be difficulties for new people in the industry."
Southern Water planning strategy manager Meyrick Gough added: "We have to look at balancing the future supply against what we can supply now. When the demand exceeds how much we can supply, that's when we have to put in an intervention."
Gough said he did not foresee any drastic price rises for growers in the South East. "Certainly over the next five years we are just going up a couple of per cent and that will be it," he maintained.
When asked whether he thought growers should adopt water recycling systems such as the one at Lowaters, he said: "Yes, you are better off going down these routes. It's all about how we use water in a more sustainable manner and the system that's here is fantastic."