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.
The River Beane Catchment Project
Since March 2016 FWAG East have been working with Thames Water to deliver the River Beane Catchment Project, aimed at reducing the concentrations of metaldehyde found in the raw water of the catchment. Whilst many invisible particles, including traces of most pesticides, can be removed during the treatment process, metaldehyde is currently difficult and expensive to remove.
In 2016, Thames Water offered a subsidy of £1/kg to farmers in the Beane catchment to use ferric phosphate as an alternative to metaldehyde. The project was a great success, with all but one metaldehyde user taking part. The substitution trial is taking place again in 2017 so if you are a Beane farmer and did not claim the subsidy last year please contact FWAG East find out how you can get involved!
The Lower Lee Catchment Project
The Lower Lee is another catchment where metaldehyde is a concern, and this year FWAG East and Thames Water will be delivering a similar substitution trial here. FWAG East will be offering free on-farm advice on sustainable soil and water protection, and Countryside Stewardship.
The River Rib & Quin Catchment Project
In the Rib and Quin catchment Thames Water are taking a different approach to tackling the metaldehyde issue. The Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) Project recognises the value of ecosystem services, in this case clean water, and pays the caretaker of the ecosystem (farmers) to take measures to protect or improve water quality in the catchment. Between 1st August and 8th December this year, Thames water will pay Rib farmers (who enroll in the project) for taking measures to protect water quality. These actions may include not using metaldehyde slug pellets, using only ferric phosphate slug pellets, using spring cropping and using IPM to control slug populations. Farmers will receive £1 per million litres of water measured as containing less than the Drinking Water Standard (DWS) (0.1µg/l) for metaldehyde. There will a bonus payment if all water from the catchment during the trial period contained metaldehyde concentrations below the DWS. FWAG East will be hosting a number of events over the next year.
The Cobbins Brook Catchment Project
For 2017 FWAG East will be working in parternship with Thames Water in the Cobbins Brook. Similar to other current projects a product substitution trial will be taking place. Farmers can claim a subsidy of £1/kg of ferric phosphate applied to land within the catchment during the period of 1st August to 8th December.
The Affinity Water Cover Crop Demonstration Project
In 2016 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 demonstration plots. At each site six different types of cover crop were grown. Soil and plant tissue samples were taken at the beginning and end of the trial. At one site, 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