Farmers Help Improve Water Quality

UK - Farmers are already taking action on a number of fronts to minimise their impact on water quality and will continue to work to make improvements.
calendar icon 24 December 2009
clock icon 3 minute read
National Farmers Union

Defra, the Environment Agency and the Welsh Assembly Government have published River Basin Management Plans for ten river basin districts in England and Wales which set out how good water status will be achieved for each lake, stretch of a river, estuary or coastline. The plans aim to raise standards and include new ways of working and the use of economic tests to ensure objectives are worthwhile.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: “The River Basin Management Plans show our commitment to building on the improvements in water quality of our rivers, lakes and coastlines that we have seen in the last 20 years. The return of fish species and other wildlife that had previously disappeared shows what we can do.

“I’m also pleased to announce £1million for the Environment Agency to bring forward water quality investigations they have planned in England for the next three years, so we can find out where the problems are and get on with dealing with them. In addition, the money available for farmers to tackle agricultural water pollution will be increased to £7.5million.”

Dr Paul Leinster, Environment Agency Chief Executive, said: “These major plans, approved today by Government, will help improve over 9,500 miles of rivers across England and Wales by 2015.

“The quality of rivers in England and Wales continue to improve. That is why we have seen the return of otters, eels and salmon to rivers like the Thames, Mersey and Tyne.

“The plans set out actions to tackle sources of pollution and to help reach challenging new EU standards on water quality. We will be working hard locally to deliver the plans alongside farmers, water companies and groups such as the Rivers Trusts and RSPB, who also have a key role to play.”

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: “Agriculture is already taking action to minimise its impact on water quality through a range of industry initiatives such as the Voluntary Initiative for pesticide use, the Tried and Tested programme for nutrient planning, and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

“The announcement of a 50 per cent increase in funding from Defra to £7.5 million for capital grants available as part of the Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative will help to deliver targeted benefits while the extra £1 million for Environment Agency investigations will help research into the source and impact of pollution.

“It is increasingly apparent in rural areas that the contribution of agriculture to diffuse pollution is rather less than had been previously assumed and we strongly support further investigations to gather evidence of the actual sources of pollution. The more accurately measures are targeted, the more cost-effective the measures will be.”

Mr Raymond said the NFU would continue to work with the Environment Agency and other stakeholders to better understand what farmers can do to improve water quality in specific areas while maintaining productivity – to impact less while producing more.

“We should not underestimate the challenge which the plans pose, with their very ambitious targets. These will take time to deliver and, in some cases, will be very costly. Some of the most costly measures for farmers include the construction of extra slurry storage for which there is no financial support in England – unlike other countries in the UK and the EU. This illustrates the need to pay particular attention to the worth-whileness of the objectives and the cost-effectiveness of the measures.”


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