Saturday, March 28, 2020

Water quality remains high – despite adverse weather

February 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Crops

A scheme to mitigate the impact of pesticide run-off on water quality has seen its most successful year yet.

Severn Trent’s Farm to Tap scheme aims to keep metaldehyde out of watercourses. The company says there have been no metaldehyde related water quality failures at any of its treatment works over the past year.

Severn Trent catchment management scientist Laura Flower says there were two major factors at play helping to stop metaldehyde reaching watercourses between September and December 2019 – despite high levels of rainfall during the autumn.

“First of all, 800 farms in our region signed up to Farm to Tap, which financially supports them in switching to a ferric phosphate alternative or making management changes to significantly reduce run-off.

Slug pellets

“We also know that fewer slug pellets than normal were applied, as 24% of the farmers signed up were unable to drill any winter crops due to the extensive wet weather.”

Severn Trent is now in the process of rewarding farmers in successful sub-catchments up to £5/ha. Those who signed up to the scheme and were unable to drill, but operate in a successful sub-catchment, will receive a goodwill payment of £100.

Laura explains that even with the lack of planting, a handful of sub-catchments still succumbed to the rainfall and failed local water quality tests. But the good news is that the higher quality water from other catchments diluted this and meant drinking water standards were upheld at treatment works.

Incentive

“We’re now working closely with the few farmers in the failed areas to understand how we can support them to resolve the issue. We’re offering a £25 incentive to these farms for filling in a simple survey to help with this.”

Laura adds that while the costs initially seem high for Severn Trent, every £1 spent on catchment management saves Severn Trent £20 in treatment, meaning customer bills are kept as low as possible.

“For this reason, we will be continuing the Farm to Tap scheme for 2020/21 before metaldehyde is completely banned from use in 2021, where we will develop a similar scheme for different pesticides.”

For more information please visit https://www.stwater.co.uk/about-us/environment/catchment-management/farm-to-tap/

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