£1.6m fund launches to help farmers manage water resources 

Groups of farmers will be offered support to work together to store water and protect against the impact of drought through a new fund launched by the government. 

The £1.6 million water fund will be used by farmers to investigate different methods to manage water in their area.

The £1.6 million fund will be used by farmers to investigate different methods to manage water in their area.  

Projects could include multi-farm reservoirs, treated waste-water recycling systems, as well as water trading and sharing schemes. 

Defra said that the fund will support around 20 studies and will also investigate water demand and availability in the most water-stressed agricultural areas over the next 25-year period.

Most valuable resource 

Robbie Moore MP

The new fund delivers on the Prime Minister’s commitment from the last year’s Farm to Fork Summit to support farmers in identifying local water resource schemes – helping to build resilience into the water supply, support food production and safeguard food security. 

Applications are now open, with groups of two or more neighbouring farms eligible to apply. The closing date for applications is 23:59 on 16th June. 

Water minister Robbie Moore said: “Water is our most valuable resource, and we want to support farmers to come together to manage it efficiently on their land. 

“By storing water when it’s wet, they’ll have more to use when it’s dry – helping to support food production and boost the resilience of farm businesses across the country.” 

Making positive impact 

Philip Duffy

Philip Duffy, chief executive of the Environment Agency, added that climate change, increased demand, and the need to protect the environment mean that up to 5bn extra litres of water will be needed in England every day by 2050.  

He said: “By working together, farmers can make a huge positive impact in improving our use of water resources, making sure they have water to use in times of drought and safeguarding our food security.”

Building on success of existing projects 

The fund will help identify opportunities to build on the success of existing projects, including: 

  • Felixstowe Hydrocycle – a multi-farm project currently repurposing more than 0.5 million tonnes of excess land drainage water per year – the equivalent of more than 225 Olympic swimming pools that would otherwise be lost to sea, for agricultural irrigation on six farms.  
  • Lincoln Water Transfer – a member organisation where 19 farms share a single abstraction licence to take water from Fossdyke Navigation to irrigate 4,600 hectares of land – using a pool system to allocate water which creates greater flexibility in land and water use.   

The Environment Agency will also use the fund to work with stakeholders such as farmers, landowners and water abstractor groups to safeguard a healthy farming sector in the future and highlight the needs of agriculture in regional water resource plans. 

The funding builds on existing support from the government to help farmers make efficient use of water resources, such as the Water Management Grant, as well as setting strict targets for water companies to deliver a 50% reduction in leakage from 2017/18 levels by 2050. 

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