A South West Water project to reduce drought is to get £1 million from government quango.
Water regulator Ofwat is giving the money from its innovation fund to pay farmers in Devon and Cornwall to create water storage on their land.
“land use changes and the accompanying management practices have been linked to increased erosion and farm-scale runoff, and the degradation of soil structure. Of particular concern are winter practices that leave the soil surface bare or require the use of heavy machinery on the land, and also those actions that increase the surface and subsurface flow connectivity of the landscape, to give pathways for rapid runoff.” (From joint Environment/Defra 2004 study) – Owl
It is one of 16 projects – and one of five involving South West Water – awarded a share of £40 million from Ofwat in a competition called the Water Breakthrough Challenge.
The project, which will be run by the company along with Westcountry Rivers Trust claims to contribute to better hydrated wetlands, woodlands and fields, and will help farms manage water demand through dry weather and boost biodiversity.
Farmers will be paid to create ‘water batteries’, storing up water in soil ‘sponges’ as well as ponds and lakes. These stores will recharge during wet weather and can be drawn down during periods of drought, either for use on the farm to reduce demand on the mains supply, or sold to a range of buyers.
Carolyn Cadman, Director of Natural Resources, said: “This exciting project will embed new ways of thinking, valuing and storing water across the South West.
“The project will explore innovative ways of improving resilience to climate change, which we expect will bring more intense rain and more periods of drought. Working in partnership we will test ways in which farmers can capture and store that intense rainfall on their land, either to use themselves or by selling it onto others.”
Dr Laurence Cauldrick, CEO at Westcountry Rivers Trust said: “These ecologically connected and distributive ‘smart ponds’ would enhance water retention on land, charging during the winter, and enabling farmers during times of summer drought to either use the water for on-farm needs, thereby alleviating demand on the mains supply, or to sell to recharge our rivers via water companies adding to the water supply grid.”