The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has reiterated its commitment to introduce reform of the abstraction licensing regime. A recent briefing note on the Water Bill (as it then was) states that it is aiming to legislate early in the next Parliament (from 2015) with a view to implementation in the early 2020s.
This is confirmed by section 57 Water Act 2014, which places a duty on the Secretary of State to prepare a report setting out progress made in reforming the arrangements for managing water abstraction in England. Section 57 requires the report to be laid before Parliament within 5 years of the Act being passed, i.e. before 14 May 2019.
The Water Act has also introduced change to the existing abstraction regime. Section 58 removes the right of a water or sewerage undertaker to receive compensation where an abstraction licence is modified on the direction of the Secretary of State or Welsh Ministers. This change will take effect from 14 July 2014.
The Act also includes new provisions to introduce so called upstream reform. Section 12 empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations about the supply of water to a water undertaker by a person other than a water undertaker. Defra has stated however that these reforms will not be implemented ahead of the next Price Review; 2020 would therefore appear to be the earliest commencement date.