Prepare an application for a groundwater investigation consent

If you want to abstract (take) water from groundwater (or vary an existing groundwater abstraction licence) you may need to investigate if enough groundwater is available, and whether the quality is suitable for your needs.  

This investigation needs to take place before you can apply for an abstraction licence. 

You will need to apply for permission to construct a borehole or well, and abstract more than 20 cubic metres of water a day for testing. This investigation will show: 

  • if there is groundwater present; and  
  • what effect abstracting groundwater would have on the environment.  

You do not need a consent to investigate a groundwater source if you will be abstracting less than 20 cubic metres of water a day. 

After you have finished your investigations you will need to apply for an abstraction licence to continue to abstract groundwater.  

Even if the source provides enough water, this does not mean you will automatically be granted a licence. 

You can use the results of this investigation to produce a groundwater impact assessment to submit with any future abstraction licence application you make.  

Apply for a consent to investigate a groundwater source 

The fee for a groundwater investigation consent is £1,959.

We will aim to provide you with your consent within 45 working days. It can take longer to assess your application if the activity is close to sensitive conservation sites, as we may have to consult externally.  

You can use the results of this investigation to produce a groundwater impact assessment to submit with any future abstraction licence application you make.  

Prepare your application to investigate a groundwater source 

A professional hydrogeological advisor can suggest where best to develop a source, or whether it is worth doing at all. They can also design and supervise your pumping test and produce the groundwater impact assessment required. 

Pumping tests and producing a groundwater impact assessment

Pumping tests are used to find out whether the source can produce a water supply that will meet your needs, and to see if the abstraction will affect existing boreholes, wells, springs, rivers and other environmental features in the area.  

You must carry out the pumping tests and produce a groundwater impact assessment in line with relevant guidance and best practice, including:  

We may require repetition of tests or other appropriate activities if the required standards are not met.  

We will tell you in the consent which nearby water features and other abstractions need to be monitored during your pumping test based on the information you provide in your water features survey. You may need you to install extra boreholes purely for monitoring purposes.   

Outline proposal 

You must provide an outline of your proposal in the application. The amount of information given will depend on the complexity of your proposal and the sensitivity of the site. The information should allow us to clearly understand your proposal, the site location and surrounding area. 

Information given could include:  

  • a description of the proposed installation, pumping test and abstraction regime  
  • an indication of the main reasons for the proposal, taking into account possible environmental effects  
  • a description of any measures proposed to mitigate any potential adverse effects on the water environment  

Abstraction details  

Tell us how much water you wish to abstract every hour, day and year. Give the maximum amounts, not averages. Make sure that the quantities you specify accurately reflect your needs. When you apply for an abstraction licence, if you request a higher rate of abstraction than that tested as part of the groundwater investigation consent, you will have to go through the consenting process again.  

Provide the purpose, period and volumes you propose to abstract for each abstraction point. If water is to be used for multiple purposes, provide a breakdown of the abstraction quantities for each different use.   

Discharge of water during the pumping test 

Tell us where you will be disposing of the water abstracted during your investigations. Your discharge may go to one of the following:  

  • to land (i.e. a soakaway) 
  • a watercourse (river, stream or ditch)  
  • to another borehole or well 
  • to a surface water sewer
  • to the sea 
  • something else (please specify)  

Please mark the discharge points clearly on the map you provide with your application, and label them so they are not confused with the abstraction points. You must give us the 10 figure NGR of each point.  

Tell us if you plan to use any discharge point as part of any future operation, such as part of an open loop ground source heating or cooling system. 

An Environmental Permit may be required for the discharge of your pumped water to ground or to a watercourse. 

Find out more about permits for water discharges 

If you already have an Environmental Permit/Exemption to discharge water for any of these points, please include the reference number in your application. 

Water Features Survey  

You must carry out a detailed, accurate desk study and field survey of all the water features in the area around your proposal. Water features can include:  

  • boreholes and wells, even if they are disused or filled in
  • springs 
  • watercourses
  • ponds and lakes, even if filled in
  • wetland areas
  • seepage lagoons and catch-pits
  • adits (passages for drainage to or from a mine)  

Desk studies should include all available mapping (such as Ordnance Survey, British Geological Survey and Coal Authority) and consultation with relevant authorities (such as Natural Resources Wales and Local Authority private water supplies register). 

The field study will confirm the data collected during the desk study and provide opportunity to gain more information on potentially sensitive receptors.  

You must take care when investigating water features and apply appropriate health and safety precautions  

The area your survey should cover depends on the quantity of water you wish to abstract. The table below shows the minimum area your survey should cover: 

Proposed daily volume of abstraction (m3) Minimum radius for survey (metres)

20 to 100  


100 - 500  


500 -1,000  


1,000 - 3000 


3,000 - 5,000  


Over 5,000  


Effects on existing users

If the survey indicates that the work is likely to significantly affect other water users, you will need to demonstrate you have reached a satisfactory agreement with the other users. 

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