Thames River Basin

Catchment management event June 2018

 

Catchment management giving a presentation at the event

 

Our catchment management team

Our catchment management team which sits within Asset Strategy works proactively to identify potential sources of pollution and regularly monitors rivers and groundwater in our communities. We work in partnership with farmers, land managers and other stakeholders raising awareness of any issues that could affect drinking water quality. By working within our catchments and communities, we aim to find innovative ways to reduce pollution at source to safeguard our drinking water sources. ~40% of the water we supply is abstracted direct from the River Thames which is at risk from pollution in ~10,000km2 upstream river catchment from the Cotswolds to West London.

 

Thames Catchment Management Steering Group (TCMSG)

Affinity Water, Thames Water and South East Water all abstract and supply water from the River Thames and experience similar challenges. In 2010, we formed the Thames Catchment Management Steering Group (TCMSG). The aim of the TCMSG was to combine resources and knowledge to address the shared challenges around pesticides (including metaldehyde) and other pollution risks across the Thames River Basin District.

 

A programme of work was set up that involved working with landowners, farmers and agronomists to identify solutions to help limit metaldehyde losses to water. Since its formation an extensive water quality monitoring network has been established covering the entire River Thames basin. This monitoring has helped identify high risk areas across the basin where focused engagement with farmers is required and has led to the implementation of a number of pesticide reduction schemes by all three water companies, which in 2018 will incorporate nearly 3,500km2 of catchment.

 

Catchment Management Event

To support this work, we hosted a stakeholder event for all three companies at the Farmschool near Harpenden last Wednesday, 20 June 2018. Around 50 stakeholders joined the event from a range of organisations that included water companies, the Environment Agency, Natural England, advisory groups, farmers and agronomists.

 

Alister Leggatt speaking at the event

Alister Leggatt introducing the agenda of the day

 

Event Overview

The day started with tea and biscuits which went down a treat with all our guests, giving them a chance to network and discuss the shared experiences of catchment management. This was followed by the farm manager Ian Pigott who introduced the Farmschool charity and the agricultural education that they provide for young children.

 

Ian Pigott speaking to the audience

Ian Pigott (Farm Manager) discusses how the farm and Farmschool charity operates

 

The first speaker of the day was Alison Hall from the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group (MSG). She gave an excellent talk on the national picture of metaldehyde and the MSG’s stewardship guidance for best practice in using metaldehyde slug pellets. She focused on the concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) discussing a range of control techniques for slugs rather then relying solely on slug pellets.

 

Alison Hall discusses metaldehyde

Alison Hall from MSG talks about challenges of metaldehyde and the stewardship guidelines

 

The next talk was given by Simon Lohrey from South East Water. He provided a regional water quality update of metaldehyde and other pesticides in the Thames Basin over 2017.

 

Simonm Lohrey giving his regional update

Simon Lohrey presents a regional update on pesticides across the Thames River Basin in 2017

 

A catchment project update was also provided by Jo Clint from Thames Water. Jo discussed the different trials and schemes that were being undertaken by all three water companies. These included product substitution trials (switching the use of metaldehyde with an alternative), risk mapping approach (using modelling to identify high risk fields in a catchment) and Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes (which incentivise farmers to be producers of clean water whereby farmers received payments for improvements in water quality based on adopting farming techniques that reduce pollutant losses to water).

 

Jo giving a project update

Jo Clint presenting a catchment project update

 

The penultimate talk was a combined presentation on the schemes undertaken in the Loddon catchment. Our Agricultural Advisor, Shaun Dowman gave an overview of the project design, focusing on the risk mapping approach undertaken in the Twyford Brook sub-catchment and the PES scheme undertaken in the Middle/Upper Loddon. This was followed by Amanda Ingham from the Loddon Farm Advice Project who helped deliver the farm engagement around the project. She was key in communicating with farmers and understanding their needs and what type of participation was required. She also conducted a follow-up questionnaire after the monitoring season to discuss water quality with the farmers and their pesticide usage.

 

Shaun Dowman talks about collaborative catchment management in the Lodden

 

Amanda delivering the Loddon scheme

Amanda Ingham from Arcadian Farm Advice delivering the Loddon scheme

 

A farmer’s perspective was also provided from a talk given by Nick Philp. Nick was one of the main farmers who participated in the scheme and spoke about the benefits of the project and why it was important to incentivise farmers through a payment system to improve water quality within the catchment.

 

Nick Philp discusses the farm he manages

Nick Philp (Farmer) giving a talk on the farms he manages and his participation in the Twyford Brook metaldehyde reduction scheme

 

The final talk of the day was given by the catchment management programme lead, Alister Leggatt. He gave a presentation on the future direction of catchment management, focusing on expanding projects across the Thames Basin and the positive results that many of the schemes had achieved. He also spoke about the launch of the Catchment Management Declaration initiated by Charles, the Prince of Wales. This has been signed by over 70 organisations calling for collective action and partnership working on catchment management to support the delivery of the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan.

 

Shaun, Amanda and Nick answering questions from the audience

Shaun, Amanda and Nick answering questions regarding the partnership in the Loddon catchment

 

The Farmschool at Annables Farm

The Farmschool Charity is both a school and a contemporary meeting venue on an award-winning farm, with huge panoramic views of stunning rolling countryside. It is perfect for groups of 4 to 60 people. Through sensory and interactive learning, school children from key stage 2 to 5 learn about food, farming, healthy eating and the natural environment.

 

The Annables farm uses a method of farming known as conservation agriculture otherwise known as ‘no till farming’. This is where arable cropland is used but with little or no disturbance of the soil, meaning that the land is not ploughed. Soil protection measures are also included in this type of farming these include cover cropping throughout the season. This form of land management is imperative to protecting soil health in an agricultural setting and reduces inputs to the land such as pesticides and fertilisers. This is extremely important from a water industry perspective as we have a range of water quality challenges surrounding diffuse pollution which includes pesticides such as metaldehyde which can bypass conventional water treatment processes.

 

The Farmschool

The Farmschool Venue

 

Logging trailer tour

Exciting tour on a logging trailer on the back of a tractor

Ian discussing the farm

Ian discussing conservation agriculture and the crops on his farm

 

Ian showing the group crop cutting on the field

Ian showing the group the practice of maintaining crop cutting on the field to increase soil organic matter and water retention

 

Ian talking about no till farming

Ian talking about the benefits of no till farming on soil health

 

Logger trailer

End of the farm tour and the TCMSG stakeholder event