Water companies abstract water from reservoirs, rivers and the ground to supply the water customers use. In some areas abstraction by water companies can cause environmental impacts and climate change and population growth are putting more pressure on our water resources.

Working with the water sector we have created the abstraction incentive mechanism (AIM). The AIM encourages water companies to reduce the environmental impact of abstracting water at environmentally sensitive sites during defined periods of low surface water flows.

The AIM is a reputational incentive. This means that it harnesses a water company’s aspiration to enhance its reputation by demonstrating that it is changing its operating practices in a way that benefits the water environment. The AIM complements the existing tools to reduce abstraction from sensitive sites, such as

  • abstraction licence volume changes, or
  • adding abstraction licence conditions which require abstractions to cease during periods of low flows.

We intend that the reputational AIM will reveal useful information which could inform the UK Government’s and Welsh Government’s planned abstraction reforms.

The AIM started on 1 April 2016. In its first year it will apply to 47 abstractions sites. Companies will report on the AIM in July of each year in their annual performance reports.

No water company wholly or mainly in Wales has proposed an AIM site, and the environmental information we currently have does not suggest there is a need for them to do so. So we expect the AIM will apply only to water companies wholly or mainly in England.

The reputational AIM will contribute to our new resilience duty, for example, by encouraging companies to manage water resources in sustainable ways in response to increasing environmental pressures and population growth.


Guidelines on the abstraction incentive mechanism, February 2016,

AIM Taskforce meeting note 21 January 2016,

Consultation on the abstraction incentive mechanism, November 2015,

Abstraction incentive mechanism (AIM) –Recommendation of the AIM taskforce, July 2015,

AIM taskforce meeting notes 12 May 2015