Thursday, November 14, 2019

‘Challenging times ahead’ for region’s water supply

September 10, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

Farmers face increasingly challenging times regarding the use and management of water, says the Country Land and Business Association.

The contrasting challenges of severe flooding in and around the Lincolnshire village of Wainfleet earlier this summer – while other areas were suffering from lack of rain – has focused attention on water availability, says CLA eastern region director Ben Underwood.

Concerns in others areas that water abstraction licences, which allow farmers and landowners to take water from a natural source, are being revoked without compensation, is creating adding to a difficult climate for profitable food production and land management.

The CLA’s eastern region office represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Suffolk.

Flood and drought

Mr Underwood said:  “The devastating flooding in Lincolnshire this summer brought to the fore some of the significant challenges this region faces in terms of water management.

“While investigations into the flooding in Wainfleet continue, many farmers and landowners in the east of England feel vulnerable to the risk of flooding and the devastation it could cause their land and rural businesses.”

By way of contrast, Mr Underwood said landowners in Norfolk were having their licences to abstract water revoked by the Environment Agency due to concerns over water levels and the environment.

“While we recognise there is the need for sustainable abstraction, the fact that these licences are being taken away without any compensation is of great concern,” he added.

Crucial role

“There is little doubt that the impact of climate change and extreme weather events is likely to lead to some extremely challenging times ahead when it comes to water supply and management in the East of England.”

In turn, Mr Underwood said it was important that policymakers recognised that farmers and landowners could play a crucial role in providing solutions to these challenges and must be involved in conversation.

Senior officials from the CLA met recently with the Environment Agency to raise their concerns over flooding and the revoking of water abstraction licences, he added.

The CLA also recently held a Climate Change Summit in London where academic and industry experts discussed the risks and opportunities of climate change for farmers and landowners and the topic of water was a key point on the agenda.

Lincolnshire farmer Robert Caudwell, who chairs the Association of Drainage Authorities, said: “Rather than higher defences in lowland coastal areas, we need to be building and maintaining defences more resilient and strong enough to resist damage from water overtopping them.”

The other significant phenomenon which leads to coastal flooding is wave action and planning for a resilient coastline should always consider the foreshore and the restoration of intertidal habitat, which can lessen the impact of waves on primary defences.

When sea water does come over the top of tidal defences, critical infrastructure such as pumping stations, should be made resilient to those occasional events so that the overtopped water can be quickly and efficiently pumped back out to sea.

Mr Caudwell said “It is time for the valuation of food-producing land and production attributed to the benefits of flood and coastal erosion risk management schemes to be properly reappraised along with the separation of funding and benefits apportioned to schemes tackling coastal flooding from other forms of flooding.”

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