Environment Agency consultation: charge proposals for water discharges

Closed 11 Mar 2024

Opened 29 Jan 2024


Healthy water quality is essential to life. People, and animals all rely on it for survival. Beyond that, clean water contributes to a better environment for everyone to enjoy whether that be the stream at the end of a garden, lakes in our national parks, coastal waters, or rivers running through our towns and cities. 

Part of the Environment Agency’s role is to effectively regulate permit holders discharging into these waters and ensure they do this in an environmentally responsible way. We issue permits for these discharges and levy charges to fund our regulatory service.

What we are consulting on

We have reviewed our permitting and regulatory activity for water quality activities alongside the water industry transformation programme. Our charges proposals for water discharges (including groundwater activities) are set out in this consultation. We invite you to share your views on our proposed changes to charges for: 

  • permit application charges, including additional charges for habitats assessment
  • most annual subsistence charges
  • new annual subsistence charges for permits held by sewerage undertakers operating the public sewerage system and treatment activities
  • new duties and charges following Environmental Permitting (England and  Wales)(Amendment)(England) Regulations 2023 groundwater amendments
  • new supplementary charges for specific substances assessments (and changes to the circumstances when they are payable)

Our water quality charges were last updated in 2018. The proposed changes to our charging scheme seek to recover the full cost of our services. The proposed introduction of new subsistence charges for “discharges of sewage effluent by sewerage undertakers” will have the greatest impact. These charges will help to fund an improved approach to regulation of the water industry.

There will also be a small increase in annual subsistence charges made for most of the other water discharge activities. In some cases, there will be a small decrease. There will be increases to permit application charges in most cases, although there will be no change to small sewage discharge applications from a domestic household or an organisation that operates for charitable purposes.

About this consultation

Our aim is to achieve a consistent and transparent approach in how we charge for regulating water discharges. Information about this consultation is set out in our consultation document and supporting documentation:

  • consultation document sets out our proposals for updates to the charging scheme
  • economic impact assessment considers how these proposed changes will affect customers 
  • draft charging scheme for water discharges includes the tables of proposed application and annual subsistence charges   
  • guide explains how we calculate our charges  

The supporting documents are available in the 'related’ section at the end of this page.

We retracted this online consultation for 5 minutes at 10:25am on 01.02.2024 to fix a missing link above question 19.

Why your views matter

We would like you to share your views so we can understand the impacts and benefits, as you consider them, of the proposals outlined in this consultation. We would also like to hear any suggestions on how you think we could improve these proposals.

Please note it is not necessary to provide a response to every question. If you respond online and provide an email address, your response will be automatically acknowledged.

Responding to the consultation

This consultation runs from Monday, 29 January 2024 until midnight on Monday,  11 March 2024. We will consider all responses received by the closing date before finalising our proposals to submit for approval by government. You can view the consultation document by clicking on the relevant link in the 'related' section at the end of this page. 

Please submit your response using this online consultation tool, as it provides an easy and efficient way to respond. It will also help us to: 

•    gather all responses in one place
•    summarise responses quickly and accurately
•    reduce the cost of the consultation 

If you do not wish to respond using the online tool, you can download the response form (at the bottom of this page) and email the completed form using the subject header 'Charge consultation: water discharges' to enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.   

Ask for a copy of the consultation document

Please contact us if you would like a copy of the consultation document. You can do this by contacting our:  

     National Customer Contact Centre 
     Telephone Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm: 03708 506 506  
     Minicom for the hard of hearing: 03702 422 549 

We are running this consultation in accordance with the guidance set out in the government’s consultation principles.

If you have any questions or complaints about the way this consultation has been carried out, please contact consultation.enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.

Please click on the ‘online consultation’ link below to answer the consultation questions.

What happens next

We will review all the responses to this consultation and will publish our response on GOV.UK within 12 weeks of this consultation closing and before we implement any changes. A link to the consultation response document will be displayed on the first page of this consultation tool.


  • Businesses
  • Charities
  • Statutory organisations
  • NGOs
  • Members of the public
  • Elected representatives, including MPs
  • Local councils
  • Academics
  • Environment Agency customers


  • Water quality
  • Habitats and wildlife
  • Environmental permitting