Cereals 2012: Flexible approach needed to water use in agriculture

Government should be more flexible in its approach to water use in agriculture, CLA president Harry Cotterell has urged.

Despite the recent deluge, water use was still an increasing political concern and he said access to water was a fundamental property right.

“Farming is on the front line in terms of water use and no matter how well you do the job, the weather can always spoil it. Irrigation is not cheap and the cost of planting irrigated crops is very high, so no farmer is going to irrigate unnecessarily.”

Referring to the draft Water Bill, he acknowledged abstraction licenses were likely to be limited in some way by volume or time, but said changes should be phased in slowly and leave farmers with enough water to run businesses effectively.

“Don’t base allocation on what’s used in a given year, base it on what’s needed in a dry year,” he said.

Mr Cotterell urged government to:

  • Ensure environmental allocation of water was based on sound science, not politics

  • Ensure agencies such as the Environment Agency and Natural England take economic concerns into account when assessing water availability

  • Reduce red tape and promote on-farm reservoirs – deregulate their use when there is no risk to the public

  • Be more flexible around abstraction – allow abstraction at times of high flow, regardless of date

  • Develop catchment models to better understand recharge rates of groundwater

More from Cereals 2012

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