Counting cost of water work

13 July 2001

Counting cost of water work

ON-FARM costs of the EU Commissions forthcoming Water Framework Directive could be as high as £175/ha, claims the NFU.

The figure, derived from the governments calculations, is based on the loss of income due to the extra work needed to meet the directives more stringent water quality targets.

The NFU has denounced the cost to farmers of the new directive as "financially unsustainable". The union says that unlike other industries, farmers are unable to pass the extra costs on.

"We are deeply concerned that this directive will impose costs that are impossible for agriculture to bear," said NFU vice-president Michael Paske. "We are extremely worried that the commitment government is making cannot be sustained by the industry – at least not without some help."

The directive, aimed at ensuring all water achieves the target of "good quality status" by 2015, was implemented in December 2000. But it has only recently been released for consultation by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Once the consultation process has been completed, an organisation – expected to be the Environment Agency – will be appointed to enforce the directive. The agencys job will be to set targets for the reduction of pollutants, such as phosphates and pesticides. The targets will vary according to whether the water body is a river, lake, estuary, groundwater and will depend on local economic and environmental priorities.

The directive also covers storage for irrigation and aims to ensure there is no over-abstraction, although the process to tighten up in this area is already under way. &#42

Michael Payne, environmental consultant to the NFU, says farmers should get involved in the process. "Until we know what local objectives have been set, no one knows what changes will be demanded. Its up to farmers to ensure they are part of the process and help set their local parameters. Otherwise they could find themselves having to make big changes."

The programmes must be finalised by 2009 and come into effect by 2012.

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