Pesticide pollution tackled through water friendly farming

New measures to tackle the problems of water pollution from agriculture were announced this week, particularly to tackle the problems of pesticide and fertiliser run-off.

Forty catchments across England have been identified as priority areas and will be targeted under a £25 million range of measures. Newly appointed advisors will work on a one-to-one basis with farmers, as well as leading a series of initiatives, such as workshops and demonstrations, to encourage best practice.

Launching the new initiative, Environment Minister Elliot Morley said that tackling pollution from agriculture was one of the greatest challenges to boosting water quality.

“Working to reduce water pollution will have wider benefits – protecting plants and animals, improving the quality of water at our beaches, and also benefiting tourism.”

“We are playing our part by paying for a network of expert advisors to provide free advice by establishing a partnership between Defra, the EA and Natural England, to help farmers to act. Now I am looking for a positive reaction from the farming industry,” he said.

Agricultural run-off can have serious effects on local water courses through such effects as eutrophication which can deplete oxygen supplies, and soil run-off which can lead to the siltation of rivers, hampering fish breeding conditions.

Treating agricultural pollution is estimated at costing £7 per year for every water customer.

The new measures were welcomed by the Environment Agency and the Natural England Partnership, who said they would be working to develop detailed plans to make sure the initiative works.

Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation welcomed the new measures: “Tackling pollution from farmland is vital. Water companies spend millions of pounds of bill payers’ money to clean up water, and pollution also damages important wildlife sites such as the RSPB’s Ouse Washes reserve in Cambridgeshire.”

However, he warned that this should not be seen as the end of the story: “This project must be properly monitored and reviewed. Agri-environment scheme measures are not enough on their own to solve all diffuse pollution problems, though they will help – the creation of more areas of wildlife habitats combined with low-input farming will need to play a role in some catchments and these will need sufficient funding and appropriate regulation.”

David Hopkins

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