By Debbie James

New licensing rules governing water abstraction in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion could have major implications for farms that rely on boreholes as a water source.

Until now, farmers in large parts of Wales, including all of west Wales, have not needed a licence to operate a borehole.

A reason why these regions were granted an exemption when the licences were first introduced was because they lacked the necessary network of pipes to enable all farms to access mains water.

Many boreholes in the exempt regions are on dairy farms and as herd sizes have expanded, the volume being drawn from the water table has increased significantly.

Under radical changes introduced by Natural Resources Wales, farms in these geographical regions who have existing boreholes extracting over 20m3/day – the equivalent of 4,400 gallons – have two years to get licensed.

NRW says farmers must apply for a transitional water resources licence for any boreholes that water has been abstracted from since January 1, 2011.

Farmers in these regions have until December 31, 2019 to submit an application.

NRW has given itself three years to rule on applications – from January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2022 – and in the meantime farmers can continue to use boreholes as normal.?NRW urges applicants to submit their applications “in good time’’ before the application deadline of December 31 2019.

“We cannot guarantee to check all applications received within three months of the deadline,’’ it says.

“Those we deem to be invalid will be rejected and risk missing the opportunity to resubmit a valid application and take advantage of the transitional arrangements.’’

Haydn Lloyd, a Carmarthenshire dairy farmer who also runs a company specialising in the supply and installation of farm water pumps, is concerned that more has not been done to make farmers aware of these important changes.

“I am a farmer but I wasn’t aware of these changes until a friend of mine who is a hydrologist told me about them.’’

The licence will cost £135 but Mr Lloyd doesn’t think it will put farmers off sinking boreholes.

“If you weigh it against the cost of water rates then it still makes financial sense if you are using large volumes of water.’’

In most cases, farms with multiple boreholes will only pay £135 because the water will be from the same source.

The licence will last between six and 18 years, depending on a region’s catchment policy.