Anglian Water has put in place an agreement to ‘share’ more water with farmers on the River Nene to allow them to take extra water for their crops, in a bid to combat the effects of the recent dry weather.
The water company has just finalised an agreement with the Environment Agency and local drainage board meaning they will take less water from the river to use for drinking water, which in turn will allow local farmers to use more water to irrigate their crops.
20 million litres of water a day – equivalent to the domestic use of 150,000 customers – will be available for local farmers to use from the south and east of Peterborough over to the north of Cambridge. The agreement is currently in place for the next two weeks and is the second arrangement of its kind for Anglian Water this year, with the first taking place earlier in July.
Just 28mm of rain fell across the East of England during July, around half the amount expected for this time of year, leaving local farmers hard hit, and facing parched crops and depleted yields this harvest time.
Nick Walters, Ground and Surface Water Manager for Anglian Water said: “Despite the recent dry weather, we know our water resources are in a good place for this time of year – our reservoirs are 85% full and groundwater levels are healthy.
“This isn’t just down to luck, but a combination of the wet winter, the fact that we store lots of water in preparation for when it’s dry, and our industry leading stance on tackling leakage, together means that our supplies are secure this year.
“Agriculture makes up a huge part of our local economy and water is a vital part of supporting that. We know local farmers are concerned about their crops this year, which is why we’re redirecting this precious resource to areas that need it most.
“The East of England is the driest region in the country, so conserving and managing our water resources to serve customers, local businesses and balance the needs of the environment is what we do everyday.”
Last month Anglian Water announced the official launch of the Water Resources East (WRE) project. The collective is made up of representatives from the water companies, the Environment Agency, local authorities, as well as the agricultural, education and research sectors. The focus is simple – to tackle the threat that climate change and population growth is having on the East of England’s finite water supply.
Nick added: “We recognise that the impact of climate change and population growth in our region will pose a significant challenge to the water resources we have available. This means that we need to work with other organisations to come up with new ways to make use of the water we have available. This is what WRE is here to do.
“Part of WRE’s plan will be to develop longer standing ‘water trading’ arrangements like these in the future as well as considering new ways of storing and sharing water so we can manage our water resources together, and make severe drought restrictions a thing of the past.”
Manfai Tang, Environment Manager at the Environment Agency said:
“We have worked closely with Anglian Water on this project and welcome the innovative approach which should leave more water in the river helping wildlife and the environment, and give farmers access to more water. We encourage other water companies across the country to work with us at the Environment Agency on similar projects.
“We are committed to supporting farmers who have had a dry few months by allowing them to flex their abstraction licences where we are satisfied there won’t be any adverse effects on the environment.”