Find out if you need a permit for discharges to surface water and groundwater

Who needs to register?

Depending on the activity, you may be eligible for a registration. If you cannot meet these requirements you will need to apply for a permit. Go to our Water discharge and groundwater activity exemptions page for more information.

Before you apply

We offer free basic advice on:

  • confirmation of the type of permit required
  • the correct application forms to use
  • what guidance the applicant must follow
  • key legislation applicants must comply with
  • guidance to help the applicants out their application charge.

Any further advice, such as more detailed help with the interpretation of guidance or guidance on how to undertake the various impact assessments required for the application, can be provided by our Discretionary Advice Service.

This service is charged at a rate of £125 plus VAT per hour and is subject to availability.

Read more about our pre-application permitting and licensing service.

Surface run-off

If the water is clean surface run-off, for example, from a roof, road, pathway or clean hard-standing area, you do not need a permit. You just need to make sure your discharge stays clean and uncontaminated. See more guidance on the Environment Agency's website.

Discharges to a public foul sewer

If you want to discharge to a public foul sewer (or a drain that connects to one) you don’t need an environmental permit, but you should contact your sewerage undertaker, which is usually your local water company.

Is my discharge covered by a low-risk regulatory position statement?

If your discharge complies with the conditions in the following guidance, you do not need an environmental permit:

Temporary water discharges from excavations Please note, we apply the guidance for England (provided on the website) to Wales.

Apply for a permit

If you want to make a discharge to surface water or groundwater and none of the above applies to you then you will need an environmental permit. 

You can:

Apply for a permit to discharge domestic effluent

Apply for a permit to discharge trade or mixed effluent

Apply for a permit to discharge water from a heat exchanger to surface water

To change an existing permit, go to ‘change (vary) an existing permit’.  To transfer ownership to a new holder, go to ‘transfer your permit’. You can also 'surrender your permit'.

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