FWAG East have been involved in several partnership projects with water companies over the past year and will be continuing to do so in 2017.
Product Substitution Schemes
Since March 2016 FWAG East has been working in partnership with Thames Water to deliver a number of local catchment projects. These projects are aimed at reducing the concentrations of metaldehyde found in the raw water of catchments from which Thames Water abstract. Whilst many invisible particles, including traces of most pesticides, can be removed during the treatment process, metaldehyde is currently difficult and expensive to remove.
Thames Water has been tackling this issue with a programme of catchment management initiatives which aim to reduce diffuse pollution to watercourses of metaldehyde. As part of Product Substitution Schemes Thames Water offer a subsidy of £1/kg to farmers in particular catchments to use ferric phosphate as an alternative to metaldehyde.
FWAG East is delivering a Product Substitution Scheme in the Lower Lee catchment and has been offering free on-farm advice on sustainable soil and water protection, and Countryside Stewardship. If you are a farmer in either of these catchments and haven’t claimed the subsidy or your free on-farm visit in previous years please get in contact with FWAG East.
Payments for Ecosystems Services (PES) Schemes
Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) Schemes are another form of catchment management initiatives that Thames Water and FWAG East are delivering in partnership. PES recognises the value of ecosystem services, in this case clean water, and pays the manager of the ecosystem (farmers) to take up measures to protect or improve water quality in their catchment. These measures include integrated pest management, using ferric phosphate, taking a risk-based approach, using minimum dose of metaldehyde and spring cropping.
Payments are based on the “service” provided. For this the scheme this is the time period for which water at the downstream end of the catchment is clean. Thames Water will collect weekly samples at the downstream end of the catchment, typically 12 samples between October and December. Farmers will be paid based on the amount per hectare of arable land within the Stort catchment and the number of water samples between October and December that are clean. If all water received from the catchment between 1st October and 31st December is clean each farmer who takes part receives a bonus payment of £250.
FWAG East has delivered a PES scheme in the Rib & Quin catchment since 2017 and PES schemes in the Stort, Ash, Cobbins Brook and Pincey Brook catchments since 2018. The projects have been hugely successful. These projects are running again this year, so if you farm in any of these catchments and did not get involved last year give FWAG East a call.
New to 2019 FWAG East will be delivering a PES Scheme in the Beane catchment. Previously this has been a Product Substituion scheme. FWAG East will be contacting all farmers within the catchment and will be offering free on-farm advisory visits.
The Affinity Water Cover Crop Demonstration Project
In 2016 and 2017 FWAG East teamed up with Affinity Water and Kings, through the Cover Crop Demonstration Project, to trial the effect of cover crops in helping to reduce nitrate leaching into groundwater. The aim was to strengthen the awareness of the multiple benefits of cover crops and convince farmers to try them on their own farms.
Drinking water standard exceedances for nitrate is a frequent occurrence in several Hertfordshire groundwater catchments and Affinity Water has identified cover crops to be a promising method to tackle this problem due to their ability to catch nitrates.
Within the project three local farms were asked to set up cover crop demonstration plots. Different cover crop species were grown within the different plots. Soil and plant tissue samples were taken at the beginning and end of the trial. At two sites, porous pots were installed underneath the cover crops to collect water, so that samples could be tested for nitrate. The project will be taking place again this year!
The Essex Rivers Hub
The Essex Rivers Hub is a partnership project that has been developed by the Essex Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency. The aim is to provide a way for all local people to get involved in helping to improve the water quality of our rivers. Landowners are a vital partner in this process and the Project aims to support a hands-on approach to establish practical, balanced and cost-effective farm management solutions.
FWAG East is visiting farms in the catchment to discuss specific funded projects that can be undertaken to help farmers protect water quality in rivers.
The Essex Rivers Hub Landmanager Newsletter, March 2014
The Essex Rivers Hub Cover Crops Technical Information Sheet, May 2014