Water

We promote water sensitive farming and land management and are actively working with businesses that have water stewardship at the heart of their business planning. Farmers have a huge role to play in deciding whether or not contaminants are lost from the land into water sources. Here’s a very quick guide on some potentially risky farm processes and solutions to reduce the chance of contamination (these should be considered in farm business planning to ensure long-term economic and environmental sustainability):

Risk

Potential River Impact

Possible Solution

Soil Erosion

includes the transfer of fertilisers and pesticides to rivers

Sedimentation of (or silting up) the local river or watercourse. This directly covers gravel habitats which are needed for invertebrates and fish spawning. Fertilisers and pesticides are bound to the soil. Prevent soil movement in field (tramline disruption, preventing bare soil for extended periods, cover crops, ploughing across slopes where possible). Capture soil once it has begun to move (silt traps, buffer strips).
Fertilisers Nutrient enrichment leading to eutrophication in rivers, killing local wildlife, and contamination of groundwater, disrupting drinking water supply. Create a nutrient management plan, spreading only what you need when you need. Protect soil nitrogen levels during the winter by establishing a cover crop.
Pesticides Water contamination which is un-treatable or highly expensive to treat. Contamination causes disruption to drinking water supply. Safe chemical storage and filling/washing operations; Applying only when needed and within limits; Limiting use through cultural pest controls.
Livestock Bank erosion and collapse (similar impacts to soil erosion) due to livestock drinking from the river. Livestock can also “poach” the river but excreting into it, causing pollution. Fence of rivers and install drinking troughs. Prevent livestock from visiting the same point at the river time and again to reduce trampling of the bank and possible erosion.
Irrigation

either from direct river abstraction or groundwater abstraction (boreholes)

Increased pressure on the water levels causes low flows during the dry summer months. This impacts the movement of fish and wider biodiversity in the river. This impact is compounded by over-dredging of rivers. Create long term business plans for water needs so that the business can be as efficient as possible and adaptable to abstraction reform. Invest in trickle irrigation to minimise water wastage and reduce water use.
Intensive Monoculture A shift towards growing 2 or 3 main crops in rotation encourages pest populations and increases resistance to pesticides. This can lead to more pesticides used and a risk to the long term sustainability of the farm. Extend to 5-7 year crop rotations, adding diversity to the farm and resilience to potential risks.
Chemical Resistance Linked with intensification and monoculture, some weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to the pesticides used to treat them. A wider variety of pesticides is used to try and combat this increasing risk. Incorporate cultural controls into farm practices. Examples include: increasing natural predator numbers, destroying pest habitat and delaying cropping to the spring to minimise weed impact.
Risk Management Farmers must be reactive to pest and climate challenges in order to maintain the yield of their crops. This reaction can often be poorly planned or managed and lead to river contamination. Better anticipation of risk means that you’re more prepared when something goes wrong. Open conversations with environmental groups and other businesses about risk are important.