Warning to farmers over water

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THE Environment Agency says water is a poorly distributed resource in the UK, which has led them to conduct new research that scrutinises the impact of its abstraction on Lincolnshire farms.

Over the coming year, results of the survey could lead to water extraction by farms in the area being cut further.

Johnny Dudgeon, Head of Office at Savills Lincoln, comments: “Across the UK, the price of water varies considerably. Consumers are prepared to pay much more for a litre of water in a bottle, which is perceived to have more benefits such as health and convenience, than for the same product out of the tap. Our farms also rely on this resource to keep crops such as potatoes and vegetables healthy.”

He continues: “A commercial farmer pays about one-third of the cost of tap water to extract water from his own land to apply to crops. However, freehold arable land with a water source can cost up to a third more than land without water.

“The more proactive farmers have already done their housekeeping and put in reservoirs to service added value crops. With the last couples of years producing better returns for agriculture, those seeking a longer term view will be investing in such infrastructure as it’s envisaged that returns will be made.”

“The Environment Agency has the facility to revoke abstraction licences that are causing serious environmental damage and have started serving notice on licence holders in the area. This will become more prevalent as the EU’s Water Framework Directive deadline approaches.

“Commercial farmers pay about one-third of the cost of mains water for water abstracted from boreholes. Therefore there will be a considerable cost implication where abstraction licences are revoked.

“A key way to tackle water scarcity is through the construction of on-farm water storage reservoirs, either individually or with a group of local farmers. These are filled at times of high flow, principally in winter, and provide a secure resource for the following summer. Reservoirs are an expensive capital investment requiring careful justification but they can increase significantly the value of the farm and provide additional resources.

“The true value of water really becomes apparent when supplies come under threat, and over the next decade, water will be one of the key subjects on local farmers’ lips. Many are already sharing management of this resource and more need to do so. Distribution and efficient usage is key and it needs to be on the agenda for all farms.”

In the UK as a whole, a massive 35 per cent of all public water supply comes from groundwater supplies.