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 wastewater 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 discharge consents include a range of different types of discharge:

  • Domesic discharges which are single dwelling related discharges.
  • Private Sewage Infrastructure which are sewage related discharges for 2 or more dwellings and commercial activities.
  • Wastewater Utility Discharges which is wastewater infrastructure operated by a Public Water Utility Company.
  • Trade/ Process Wastewater Discharge
  • Site Drainange Discharges

Domestic discharge 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.

Holding a Consent to Discharge does not confer any legal rights of access, control or ownership for a property. NIEA require a map/plan which shows the location of the proposed treatment system and discharge point where required. This does not necessarily contain the same level of detail or match exactly any plans provided under a planning application or a Land Registry map outlining legal boundaries and we do not cross reference application maps with Planning; Land Registry or any other public bodies. If any proposed infrastructure is outside the boundary of property owned or controlled by the applicant, any easements; wayleaves; rights of way or access arrangements that may be required are the responsibility of the applicant. NIEA do not verify that such arrangements are in place.

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 Domestic Consent

Apply and pay for your Domestic Consent or Transfer of Ownership online.

NIEA has an online application process for domestic consents. Please use link below to apply for your domestic consent to discharge:

Paper applications received will be returned to the applicant.

The first time you use the system you will need to create a Government Gateway username and password, if you don’t already have one. Should you have any difficulties using the system please contact NIEA on Tel 028 92 623150 during office hours or email

Once an online application is paid and approved the status will show as ‘In progress – Final Checks’. 

The regulations (Water (NI) Order 1999) provides a 4 month timescale to determine an application for a Consent to discharge, this means your application can take up to 4 months to process.  You should ensure you allow sufficient time for your consent application to be processed.

To check the progress of your application you may contact us directly at  or Tel 028 92 623181

Please note that as part of the application process the site and/or system may be inspected by an authorised officer of the Department. The inspection of the sewage treatment system may also involve dye testing and an inspection of the area where any discharge point is located. We
will attempt to contact you to arrange a suitable time, but to facilitate the progress of your application, this visit may take place without the homeowner/occupier being present. If you wish to be present during the inspection, please contact us at  or Tel 028 92 623181 to advise.

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

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 2023/24 has been developed in line with the NIEA Regulatory Charging Policy 2023. This policy has been extended until 2023 and can be viewed at the link below:

Application guidance


Domestic Consents are for discharges from a single dwelling only. For sites of 2 or more dwellings, please first seek advice from NI Water regarding connection to the public sewer network. In the event that NI Water do not have capacity in their foul sewerage infrastructure you will need to apply to NI Water for a waste water impact assessment.
This will determine if there are any mitigation measures the developer can take to achieve a connection to NI Water infrastructure.

Please see for further details.


Private sewage infrastructure discharge consent

The preferred means of sewage collection and disposal is through connection to the public foul drainage system provided by NIW, the sole water utility provider in Northern Ireland.

If it is not possible to connect the proposed development to the main sewer, then discharge consent under the terms of the Water (NI) Order 1999 will be required for the discharge of sewage effluent from the proposed development. Applicants should follow the guidance and information provided below for Industrial discharge consent.

No commencement of works or any discharge of sewage effluent shall take place before a consent to discharge has been granted by NIEA.

This is to ensure responsible sewage management AND protection of both public health and environment.

Please refer to Consent Application WO1 Form including WO1 Annex 5 and Guidance which outlines relevant information required to ensure a complete application is submitted. Failure to submit all of the relevant and required information will result in the return of your application.

For a Private Sewage Infrastructure Consent to Discharge application must include the following information but not limited to:

  • A NIW Pre-development Enquiry which is within 12months of issue. This document provides evidence that the applicant has formally engaged with NIW.
  • In areas where there is a collection system present however NIW have indicated that a Wastewater Impact Assessment (WWIA) is required to assess the options for connection, NIEA require the submission of a WWIA. This evidence demonstrates that every option has been considered by the applicant and NIW to secure connection to the NIW sewage collection system.


For residential developments of two or more dwellings, NIEA will require evidence of valid Pre-Development Enquiry from NIW and depending on advice given a Wastewater Impact Assessment (WwIA) may also be required.  If, following NI Water advice, developer constructed sewage treatment is the only option, a suitable treatment plant, which can meet the specification for NI Water adoption under an Article 161 agreement will be considered. 

NIEA will require all private sewage infrastructure (pumping station and treatment) relating to residential dwellings to meet the NI Water specification for adoption. 

NIEA application process includes consultation with NI Water and aligns to the NI Water Article 161 Adoption process. No private sewage infrastructure will be granted unless a valid Article 161 Agreement and bond is in place.

Commercial properties which cannot connect to the NI Water infrastructure are also considered to be Private Sewage Infrastructure and are required to apply using the industrial discharge consent application process outlined below.



Industrial consent application

The Industrial discharge consent application process allows for the specific technical analysis of proposals relating to private sewage infrastructure, trade wastewater (process wastewater) and site drainage activities.

Below provides the range of application forms and guidance documents dependant on the activity applied for:


Application forms and guidance

As part of the application form, applicants are required to complete the appropriate annex for the industry type:

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, see below for guidance on how to apply:

The regulations (Water (NI) Order 1999) provides a 4 month timescale to determine an application for a Consent to discharge, an application can take up to 4 months to process.  You should ensure you allow sufficient time for your consent application to be processed. In some cases the NIEA will ask for further information under Schedule1 Paragraph 1 Sub Paragraph (3) and (4), in this case a notice will be issued seeking the submission of the required information within a specified time frame. The application will be paused until the notice for further information has been complied with.

NIEA will also consult with a number of consultees to assist in the technical assessment of an application for an Industrial Discharge.

It is particularly important to note that NIEA carry out an assessment under the Habitats Regulations 1995, The Environment Order 2001 and the Water Environment Regulations 2015.

Where a relevant designated site has been identified to be in unfavourable status detailed technical assessments will be required and may not be granted.

Applicants must note that the granting of a discharge consent will be wholly dependant on the quality of the receiving aquatic environment and the sensitivity of the location. The technical assessment of an application of consent to discharge will test if suitable controls can be put in place to protect and enhance the aquatic environment.

Proactive compliance assessment is applied to those discharges perceived to present the most risk to the environment. NIEA carry out sampling of the quality of the effluent discharged to ensure compliance is achieved. If non-compliance is detected through the sampling regime NIEA apply the DAERA Enforcement Policy to achieve compliance and protect the environment.

Application fees and charges

NIEA are required to recover the costs of regulation under the Water Order 1999.

The Water Order Fees and Charges Policy 2023/24 has been developed in line with the NIEA Regulatory Charging Policy 2023 and has been extended until 2023 and can be viewed at the link below:

The above Fees and Charges are under review for the financial year 2024/2025. Once these have been finalised the new fees and charges will apply.

If you are unsure as to what the relevant fee should be, please contact Northern Ireland Environment Agency at  

Industrial Consents currently being advertised and how to respond

Under Schedule 1 Paragraph 1 (b) an application for a Private Sewage Infrastructure Discharge Consent or an Industrial Discharge Consent must be advertised. In accordance with The Control of Pollution (applications and registers) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001, the applications currently being advertised can be viewed here.

Copies of the applications listed above may be obtained free of charge by contacting NIEA. We will provide an electronic version, by email or, if required, can post a hard copy.

For applications where there is a large volume of supporting information, these will be made available to view online at the link shown above. If you are unable to access the information online, please contact the office to arrange an appointment to come in and view the materials, during office hours at our premises at NIEA, Water Regulation Team Offices, 17 Antrim Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim, BT28 3AL.

Access to the office is strictly by appointment only. Please contact NIEA on 028 92 623155 or email  to obtain or a copy of the information or arrange an appointment to view the materials.

If you wish to make a response to the advertisement, please send your written responses or comments on these applications to . Please include the relevant TrC reference. The closing date for responses is listed in the table above.

Please be advised that under Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations, any responses to this advertisement may be supplied to a third party on request.

Public Inquiry

Under Schedule 1 Paragraph 3 of the Water Order 1999 the Department may direct the Appeals Commission to hold a public local inquiry for the purpose of considering representation made under Schedule 1 Paragraph 1(b) listed above.

There is currently 2 applications which are to be considered by the Appeals Commissions see link below:

For further details on the Public Inquiry relating to the above applications please see the information page:

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