Land Management and Farming
Land Management and Farming
We know that sediment, nutrients and pesticides are having a severe impact on water quality in the Welland Valley. All living organisms can be affected, from mammals and fish down to plants and microorganisms. Some of these are assessed and indicate if the watercourse has ‘Good Ecological Status’. Water entering the rivers affected by run-off from fields, roads, developed land or septic tanks is known as diffuse pollution. The sources of pollution are spread across the Welland Valley landscape, so can be hard to determine, and initiatives to reduce their impacts need to cover land away from the River bank as well as next to it.
Therefore, fostering close working relationships with landowners and farmers is a key aspect of the Trust’s work.
Catchment Sensitive Farming
Working closely with farmers in the Welland catchment, the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) Project aims to raise awareness of, and reduce diffuse water pollution from agriculture (DWPA) by giving free training and advice to farmers. The aim of this advice is to improve the environmental performance of farms.
CSF training and advice aims to give practical and cost-effective solutions to improve water quality through:
- farm walks
- farm events
- one-to-one advice on solutions from groundwater protection to whole farm appraisals
Support is available across the upper Welland Catchment, however some grants and guidance is limited only to the Stonton Brook Subcatchment, as this is a high priority area for water quality. This is due to a range of contributing factors that mean it will benefit significantly from targeted CSF guidance.
The CSF project is run by Natural England in partnership with the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). In the Welland and Nene catchments, the Catchment Sensitive Farming officer (CSFO) is Georgina Wallis (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In addition to its primary role of reducing DWPA, the CSF project supports farmers applying for Countryside Stewardship to improve water quality and biodiversity and to reduce flood risk. There are several grants available to farmers including funding for upgraded pesticide handling area, roofing, concreting and hardcore tracks. The CSFO can support and endorse Countryside Stewardship applications, increasing the chance of success for holdings targeted for water quality outcomes.
Water Friendly Farming
Location: Eye Brook and Stonton Brook headwaters (and the Barkby Brook in the headwaters of the adjacent Soar river basin)
Lead Organisation/s: The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust; the Freshwater Habitats Trust.
Funding Sources: The Catchment Restoration Fund through the Environment Agency, Syngenta, Regional Flood & Coastal Committee
Almost all lowland freshwater rivers, streams and ponds have been degraded by diffuse pollution from farmland activities, run-off from roads, industry and urban inputs including sewage works. Three quarters of rivers in England and Wales fail to meet the minimum legal standards set for a healthy river set by the EU’s Water Framework Directive. In the Welland catchment, only 6/33 water bodies qualify as in ‘Good’ status, with the Stonton and Eye Brooks the highest priority water bodies for WFD improvements.
The Water Friendly Farming project in Leicestershire is a research and demonstration project assessing the effectiveness of measures to protect freshwater habitats and the ecosystem services they provide in the rural environment, whilst maintaining the profitability of the farm businesses. Overall, the project aims to offer practical solutions to farmers to reduce the impact of farming practices on water.
Beginning in 2010, the WFF project aims to provide answers to three key water and land management questions:
- Can we protect and increase freshwater biodiversity without impinging on farm profitability?
- Can we reduce diffuse water pollution?
- Can we hold back water to help reduce downstream flooding?
From 2011 to 2013 the project created a detailed physical, chemical and biological baseline description of the water environment – ponds, streams and ditches – in the three study catchments.
In 2014 trial mitigation measures were implemented to hold back sediments, nutrients and water, and increase a variety of freshwater wildlife across the landscape. This included settlement ponds, stream-side fencing to reduce livestock access to streams, woody debris dams, introducing soil and nutrient management techniques to reduce runoff, and the provision of soil and nutrient management advice to farmers. Most recently, permeable dams have been created to control flood peaks downstream. Data are collected at the base of each catchment, including flow, sediment, nutrients and pesticides. In addition, aquatic plants and invertebrates are surveyed at 240 sites across the study area. Monitoring continues in order to test how effective this combination of measures is at the landscape scale, and lessons are continually shared with others through the Allerton Project’s knowledge exchange activities, Catchment Sensitive Farming and other initiatives.
The project shows that, as in most of England, clean water is scarce in the landscape with only a small proportion of the study area’s streams, ponds and ditches remaining unpolluted.
Using wetland plants as an indicator of freshwater biodiversity, the project has also shown that landscape scale biodiversity can be restored by creating new small-scale freshwater habitats. This is one of the first demonstrations of a landscape-wide increase in freshwater biodiversity as a result of land management measures, and is also notable for its rapidity, occurring immediately (i.e. in the first year after the installation of the new habitats). It further emphasises the unexpectedly large role of ponds and small wetlands in maintaining freshwater biodiversity at a landscape scale.
The ‘Slug It Out’ Campaign
Lead Organisation/s: Anglian Water
The Slug it Out campaign is aimed at reducing the levels of the slug control pesticide ‘Metaldehyde’ in the region’s waters before they reach Anglian Water’s treatment works. Every year, Anglian Water spends substantial amounts of money removing pesticides from drinking water at their treatment works – this raises customers’ bills and wastes energy.
Although harmless to humans, Metaldehyde is very difficult to remove at water treatment works and meeting tough EU targets on it is a real challenge for the region. The regulatory level of Metaldehyde stipulated by the European Union’s Water Framework Directive is 0.1 micrograms per litre (or parts per billion) in treated water. This is the same as one drop in an Olympic sized swimming pool. Levels in reservoirs in the Welland Catchment regularly exceed this and removing it is not currently possible.
The Slug it Out campaign runs across several Anglian river catchments and currently involves 216 farmers covering 22,500 hectares. As part of the campaign, Anglian Water are working with farmers to incentivise the use of alternative slug control chemicals, and to stop the use of Metaldehyde. As such, farmers receive payments to cover their costs of alternative control methods.
Alongside this, Anglian Water’s new team of Catchment Advisors are talking to farmers and agronomists about how they can help reduce the amount of Metaldehyde in our rivers and reservoirs. Their aim is to help farmers do this in a way that fits into their business. A failure to tackle Metaldehyde levels in our water now will inevitably result in additional regulation being forced on farmers further down the line, affecting individual farm businesses and the industry as a whole. This new Catchment Management approach is a proactive, responsible way of improving the water in our rivers and reservoirs while protecting our customers, our farming community and our environment. In the Welland catchment, the Anglian Water Catchment Advisors are Joanne Pollock (Upper Welland) and Becky Carter (Lower Welland).