Abstraction and impounding

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It is in general terms unlawful to abstract or impound water without a licence issued by Natural Resources Wales. Water abstraction is the process of removing water from natural sources like rivers, lakes and aquifers. The majority of water abstracted in Wales is used for public water supply, with abstraction for industrial purposes a significant element. It is regulated through a system of licences issued by Natural Resources Wales.

An impoundment is a structure within inland waters that can permanently or temporarily change the water level or flow. This includes:

  • dams

  • weirs

  • fish passes

  • hydropower turbines

  • sluices

  • penstocks

  • culverts

  • lock gates

  • retaining walls

  • flumes

  • reservoir embankments

  • temporary diversions during construction work


You must have an impoundment licence before you start to work on an impoundment structure, even in an emergency, unless an exemption applies.

Published on
23 March 2021
Last updated
09 June 2021