27 March 1998
Water curbs likely in East
By Catherine Hughes
EAST Anglian farmers and growers face the prospect of water shortages again this summer following low winter rainfall for the third year running.
Those in Suffolk with abstraction licences are likely to be hit first and could
be asked by the Environment Agency to enter voluntary water saving schemes from May.
Alan Hull, the EAs drought manager for the eastern area, said last years
groundwater level was the lowest on record in the county. As a result, 107
farmers across Suffolk, growing mainly sugar beet, potatoes and carrots, were asked to cut by 50% the volume of water they abstracted.
Mr Hull said that was achieved. “Farmers do respond very well when we ask them to cut back (voluntarily), because the next step is an enforceable one which is more onerous.”
Restrictions in other areas will be inevitable if the summer is hot and dry,
both to protect the environment and to allow the water to be shared out fairly, he added.
The EA has also warned all producers in the East Anglia region that the ongoing lack of adequate water reserves means the prospects for spray irrigation in the coming summer are “poor to moderate”.
Mr Hull said some farmers had responded by installing winter reservoirs.
Although they represented a huge investment, storing winter rainfall did
guarantee the farmers had a water supply.
Such guarantees are now a requirement before some supermarkets will issue
contracts with growers in the region.
Following a meeting late last week between farmer representatives and the EA, Country Landowners Association officials in the region confirmed that unless there was a significant amount of rain between now and June then water restrictions across East Anglia were highly likely.
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 27 March-2 April, 1998