Full reservoirs help ease farm irrigation worries

Farms in the Midlands region should not suffer restricted access to water for irrigation this year, despite the lowest January rainfall for almost a decade, according to water authority Severn Trent.

Unlike growers in the south and east of England where reservoirs are as low as 37% of capacity, Severn Trent reports reservoirs in its area stand at 95% of expected capacity.

“It’s a really strong position and, as we stand today, the likelihood of restrictions is low,” said a spokeswoman.

Met Office data released this week highlighted January rainfall across England and Wales was just 33mm – 37% of the 30-year base period average (Scotland achieved 64%).

Regional variation in rainfall distribution across the country had seen little change for the Midlands while the south east and south west had experienced just 76% of normal levels last year.

Rad Thomas, East Midlands NFU combinable crops chairman, said it was good news.

“This will be one less thing for cereal, root and vegetable growers to be worried about.”

River and other surface water levels in the region are also holding up, said Environment Agency officials who manage water extraction licences.

“While restrictions are not planned, we would urge all licence holders to use water wisely.

The situation could change depending on rainfall during the spring,” said a spokeswoman.

Although restrictions can be brought in under Drought Action Plans and national legislation, growers are unlikely to have extraction volumes reviewed until licences are renewed – typically every six or 12 years, said Agency officials.

But growers are reminded to view water as a critical resource.

Areas of particular concern include over-use of irrigation to crops in late spring and early summer leading to run-off, particularly on potato and sugar beet crops.

Mr Thomas believed the issue should be broadcast widely.

“There will always be a balancing act between water needed for humans and that needed for crops.

Growers will do their bit and if consumers use water considerately it would also help conserve stocks for everyone.”

Although welcome, confirmation of water stocks is overshadowed by more immediate threats, he said.

“Number one concern for growers in the region at this time is the delay in getting the single farm payment.

“Without it many are struggling to pay supplies for inputs needed for this year’s crops.”


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