Regulating water discharges

Under the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999, the discharge of trade or sewage waste to any waterway, or any water contained underground requires the consent of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. This includes waste from any commercial, industrial or domestic premises not connected to the public sewer.

What are discharge consents?

Discharge consents include conditions outlining the quality and quantity of waste discharges. These conditions have been drawn up to ensure that the waste can be absorbed by the receiving water without damaging the aquatic environment or breaching national or European Commission (EC) standards. The department maintains registers of discharge consents. These are open to public inspection. 

Industrial consents

The Industrial Consents section is made up of a team of professional scientists and administrative staff who deal with new applications for commercial and industrial discharge consents. They assess whether permitted discharges are at acceptable levels, and visit sites to carry out assessments. The results of compliance monitoring are in the public domain.

Domestic consents

A consent to discharge waste from a single domestic property is granted by the department, subject to the recommendations made by the local council’s Environmental Health (Rivers) Officer.

Domestic Consents ​Public Register

The Domestic Consent Public Register is now available to search for domestic consent details online.  All domestic consents and maps for consents granted from 1992 to present are available to download:  Domestic Consent Public Register

Applying for consent

Your application will be processed within four months of receipt unless a time extension has been agreed.

Applicants are required to provide a UK address on their application to which their consent can be issued.

From 1 January 2017 we will not automatically issue a receipt.  We will issue a receipt by email if requested.

Should the application be refused, you can appeal the decision within 28 days of receipt of notification of the refusal decision, by contacting the Water Appeals Commission.

For details of the fees applicable view:

The Water Order Fees and Charges Policy 2018/19 has been developed in line with the NIEA Regulatory Charging Policy 2016-21.  This policy can be viewed at the link below:

​Application forms and guidance

Industrial consent application

It is now possible to apply online by submitting an electronic PDF as well as by submitting an application form by post. 

Apply online

Application forms and guidance

Industry type annexes

Complete appropriate annex for your industry type and submit with main application form WO1.

Please note that for activities requiring a Waste Management Licence under the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 or a Part B PPC permit under The Pollution Prevention and Control (Industrial Emissions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013, a consent to discharge under the terms of the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 may also be required.

It is now possible to apply for these permissions in parallel.

More information

Further information and advice can be obtained from Water Management Unit.

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