Water Management and the Future

Groundswell 2022 recording

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Resource explained: 

A lack of water - a very real threat to the future of food and farming. What does the future hold and what can we learn from climate modelling? What challenges are farmers facing now and what practices are they implementing to reduce or mitigate future impacts of drought, or even flooding? This is a recording of a Groundswell 2022 discussion held in the Agricology Discussion Tent, organised by Agricology. Tim Field (Agricology founder, CEO of Carbon Quester and North East Cotswold Farmer Cluster facilitator) chairs an interesting discussion focussing on water resilience; why it's important to consider it on the farm, how it can be increased and how we can work together to create change and look after our water resources. He is joined by Ian Simpson (founder member of the community-led Bledington Flood Group in Oxfordshire), agroforestry pioneer, soil scientist and farm business consultant Stephen Briggs, and Richard Reynolds from Anglian Water, with questions and input from various audience members.

Findings & recommendations: 
  • Environment Agency models are predicting we will have much drier summers, and intensity of rainfalls will be at least 25% higher than they are currently. How our soils function in relation to water infiltration and water holding capacity is a big concern.
  • Farmers can build organic carbon in the soils and introduce practices such as cover cropping and agroforestry to build resilience and reduce evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration is a big vector for water loss. We need to keep and manage water in the UK much better than we currently do.
  • A 1% change in soil organic carbon to increase the buffer in the soil gives 170,000 litres of water holding capacity. It requires time and investment.
  • A good place to start regarding understanding the value and risks around water is undertaking a water audit on the farm. You need to know what you have before you can manage it.
  • The first step towards securing help with funding is acquiring good data at a farm and catchment scale. Work out where inputs / outputs are and what the water quality is. Do a water audit.
  • Think about what your 5 or 10 year plan is  - make solutions now part of your longer term plan.
  • The Catchment Sensitive Farming programme will help you get help in improving water and air quality, and in reducing flood risks.

Summary provided by: 
Janie Caldbeck