Spraying pre-emergence spring beans © Tim Scrivener© Tim Scrivener

Traces of farm pesticides found for the first time in some Welsh watercourses have triggered a new campaign to encourage farmers to use alternatives to control weeds.

Welsh Water says its routine raw water monitoring programme had picked up increased traces of pesticides in areas where they had never previously been found.

“While these levels are too low to pose a risk to those drinking the water, they are enough to breach the rigorous drinking water standards, so we want to work with land managers to take action to address this issue together,’’ explained Ian Christie, managing director of water services at Welsh Water.

See also: Pesticide amnesty scheme launched for Norfolk farmers

The new public awareness campaign – PestSmart – was launched on Monday (28 November) at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair and includes a scheme in which farmers and foresters can safely dispose of unwanted, out of date or unlicensed pesticides in targeted areas for free.

Welsh Water is also extending and expanding its weed wiper trial, which allows farmers to hire special machines for free. The trial will now run until 2020.

PestSmart is a joint initiative between Welsh Water and Natural Resources Wales and is supported by the Welsh government.

Lesley Griffiths, cabinet secretary for environment and rural affairs, said a catchment-based approach was regarded as the best way to protect Wales’s water environment for future generations.

“The PestSmart initiative is an innovative approach that provides an excellent example of the sort of new collaborative approaches we want to foster in the years ahead,’’ she said.

More details about PestSmart can be found on the Welsh Water website.