Farmers awarded grants to tackle water pollution

Farmers in the South West have been awarded more than £5.7m in grants over the past year from a government-funded initiative to tackle water pollution across the region.

Linked to European Directive water quality objectives, the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) fund aims to improve water quality by helping farmers take practical steps to reduce diffuse pollution from agriculture, including soil erosion and run-off of fertiliser and pesticides into local watercourses.

Delivered by Natural England and the Environment Agency (EA) with funding from Defra, since the initiative launched five years ago water pollution levels have fallen by up to 30% on many rivers, while on some priority catchments sediment pollution is reported to have decreased by 60%.

CSF catchment coordinator Paul Allen said: “We are delighted with the level of take up in the South West and would urge more farmers to sign up to Catchment Sensitive Farming to reduce water pollution and improve the quality of our rivers and bathing waters.

“Over the past four years, the region’s farmers have consistently received over 50% of the capital grant budget, which just goes to show how committed they are to making changes and tackling pollution.”

Grants have been used by farmers to install roofing over manure stores and livestock yards to help keep clean and dirty water separate and prevent it polluting nearby rivers and streams. In addition, it has also been used to improve guttering, drainage and concrete tracks, install waterside fencing and provide ‘bio beds’ to treat water contaminated with farm pesticides.

The area that received the most money was the Somerset Levels where 192 grants totalling £1.73m were awarded to farmers on the River Cary, Yeo and Tone catchments. This was followed by the Exe catchment where 128 farms secured £1.19m.

The scheme was recently extended to include 12 new target areas where bathing waters are at risk of failing tighter EU standards, coming into force in 2015, and where agricultural pollution is impacting on shellfish waters.

Farmers will have two months from March 1, 2012 to apply for the next round of grants when £15m will be available for CFS projects in target catchments. The project is currently funded until March 2013.

Further information can be found here.

Carys Matthews

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