Memorandum submitted by the Country Land
and Business Association
CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER SECURITY
Rural people and businesses depend
on supplies of water of sufficient quantity and the right quality,
when they are required. Many consumers are supplied through an
infrastructure of pipes, many of which are in poor condition.
It would be particularly helpful,
were government able to provide incentives to "water savers"
in the same way that energy savings are encouraged by provision
of grants for solar panels and insulation measures.
Farmers and growers, especially irrigators,
are totally reliant on a supply of water that is both affordable
and available to them in sufficient quantities at peak growing
times. Demands by growers tend to be at their highest during the
summer, when surface waters and aquifers are least able to meet
all these needs. Their greatest needs therefore tend to coincide
with periods of drought and soil moisture deficit. Ways need to
be found to store more water during the winter, for use by growers
during the summer. Ideally, these facilities should be on farm,
to reduce the needs for transport infrastructure. Planning regulations
need to reflect this.
Flood water is seen by society as
a threat and not as an opportunity. It will continue to pose a
threat, unless some of the heavy rainfall could be retained in
the uplands for the use of society during the drier months. Alternatively,
more water could be held back by diversions into washlands adjoining
rivers and upstream of towns or villages, where these are at greatest
risk from flooding. Landowners would support these measures, if
payments were to be made available by Government, to reward the
public benefits that would be produced. This would be a long-term
form of investment and management and incentives would need to
Biodiversity could be enhanced by
the creation of wetlands, but only if these are designed to be
permanent and not just transitory features. There is still a need
for flood assets constructed by the Environment Agency, to be
managed in a way that it helps to enhance biodiversity. Where
surface or groundwater abstractions are to be reduced for biodiversity
reasons, those whose rights are affected need to be compensated
by the taxpayer, and not by increasing licence fees to be paid
for by other abstractors.
1. The Country Land and Business Association
(CLA) has some 40,000 members. A significant proportion of its
members own and manage estates or are farmers in England and Wales.
The land is their factory floor and their ability to grow grass,
arable crops and trees is either enabled or constrained by climatic
factors such as, sunshine, rainfall, temperature, humidity and
wind. Fishing is an important leisure pursuit for many of our
members. Those estates and businesses that depend on letting of
fishing rights or permits are also dependent on river quality
and water levels.
2. Climate change that results in periods
of drought or excessively heavy rainfall, will influence the extent
to which some crops can be grown, or whether they can be grown
at all in certain parts of the country. Many members rely on irrigation
to boost yields of a range of arable crops. They are reliant on
assured and affordable quantities of water, at the times of the
year it is most needed. There are times in the year when there
is far more water in rivers than consumers are capable of utilising
and flooding causes damage to crops and some losses of animals.
It would appear that storm events are becoming
more severe and the sheer volume that can fall on some catchments,
makes management of both land and water far more difficult.
3. One of the greatest difficulties lies
in our inability to forecast both drought and excessively heavy
rainfall. The need to store water during times of excess, for
use in times of shortage is evident. The Association's members
are able to use some of their land to create storage facilities
and there is interest in the potential for "water farming".
There is potential to transfer water from the "wet west"
to the "dry east".
4. Members are very conscious of the need
to meet the aims of the European Habitats Directive and the Water
Framework Directive, in relation to enhancement of biodiversity
in watercourses and wetlands. Members are keen to meet appropriate
and reasonable targets and they are more than willing to work
in partnership with the Environment Agency, English Nature, other
Government agencies and NGOs.
Terms of Reference of the Inquiry
The Committee will consider:
whether existing water supplies are
adequate, and what additional sources of water might be needed;
what will be the impact on resources
management (and particularly the need for changes in irrigation
and water conservation for agriculture);
the implications for fold management,
investment in mitigation measures, and for wider policy such as
ways in which the impact of changes
in water availability on biodiversity can be minimised.
Adequacy of supplies
5. There is a tendency for peak demand for
water for household, agricultural and horticultural use, to coincide
with the time of the year when groundwater recharge is at its
lowest and crop growth rates are at their peak. The majority of
domestic demand and some agricultural supplies are drawn from
water companies. The water used is taken from aquifers, rivers
and reservoirs. Most of the infrastructure used to carry this
water from supplier to consumer was "antiquated" at
the time of privatisation of the water and sewerage industry.
Leaks were, and continue to be, commonplace. The water companies
have reinvested very large amounts of money paid by consumers
under water charges, in leak repairs and pipe work replacement.
Despite this, the scale of leakage is still unacceptably high.
Thames Water has forecast that the company is likely to detect
some 37,500 hidden leaks in 2004. This gives some idea of the
scale of the problem nationally. The Committee is asked to consider
ways in which the rate of renewal of the water-carrying infrastructure
can be increased in England and Wales. Since water saving is such
an important principle, Government is urged to make a significant
contribution toward the costs. Many users already pay large water
charges, due to the ongoing need for massive investments in the
water industry. We consider it would be very unfair to burden
consumers with additional charges to repair an infrastructure,
which was in such poor condition at the time of handover by Government
of publicly-owned assets to the water companies.
6. Other water savings can be achieved by
charges being levied on the amount of water used. The CLA has
already stated, in its response to the Environment Agency's Review
of the Water Abstraction Charges Scheme, that it supports
the principle of actual volume charging.
7. Rural people and businesses are heavily
dependent on surface or ground water, or supplies from water companies
for their livelihoods and quality of life. Many people who live
in more remote areas are totally dependent on private water supplies.
These can be affected by long periods of drought or demands on
surface or groundwater by other users. Many people whose supplies
are at risk are already investing in facilities like tanks and
reservoirs to secure their own needs. Planning regulations currently
pose strong disincentives to farmers and landowners who wish to
construct reservoirs on their property to guarantee a sustainable
supply of water and to reduce their need to draw water from already
8. Issue 64 of the Environment Agency's
demand management bulletin explains the role of the WaterSave
initiative and a range of examples are given to help those
interested in saving the amount of water they use, or in recycling
for reuse. It also mentions work being done to promote rainwater
harvesting. The Committee is asked to consider ways in which Government
could promote a much more effective adoption of water saving systems
by architects, house builders and the construction companies which
build factories, warehouses, retail and industrial premises.
9. It would be particularly helpful, were
government able to provide incentives to "water savers"
in the same way that energy savings are encouraged by provision
of grants for solar panels and insulation measures.
10. Drought is a particular threat to those
businesses that depend on water during the growing or tourist
seasons. The need to store water during times of excess, for use
in times of shortage was stressed in the introduction. The Association's
members are able, and some of them are willing, to use some of
their land to create storage facilities. There is interest in
the potential for "water farming", in which landowners
in those parts of England and Wales that enjoy high rainfall,
could conserve water for distribution to those parts of the country
that suffer from severe soil moisture deficits.
The particular needs of irrigators
11. Farmers and growers who irrigate their
crops, have to make large investments to purchase, install and
maintain spray or trickle irrigation systems. Crops are irrigated
to improve growth rates and quality, enabling British growers
to compete with growers in other countries. They are totally reliant
on a supply of water that is both affordable and available to
them in sufficient quantities at peak growing times. Their greatest
needs tend to coincide with periods of drought and soil moisture
12. The Committee's Terms of Reference imply
that there is a need for changes in irrigation and water conservation
for agriculture. (These terms do not, however, identify the need
to mitigate the effects of abstractions by water companies or
other major industrial users). One motivator of the need for changes,
are requirements contained within the European Habitats Directive,
the Special Protection Areas Directive and domestic legislation
that require Government to meet PSA targets for favourable condition
in wetlands in England and Wales.
13. The Environment Agency has identified
a need to reduce some abstractions or to withdraw licences to
abstract in some catchment areas. The CLA has stated, in its response
to the Agency's review paper, "Growers in England and Wales
are competing against "cheaper" imports of food, grown
in countries that do not bear the same burden of regulation as
we do in the UK. If abstraction is to be limited for the good
of the natural and human environment, then the main beneficiaries,
the taxpayers, should bear the costs. If abstractors are required
to compensate other abstractors whose water take is curtailed,
this would impose significant additional costs on production.
This could jeopardise the ability of some businesses to survive".
Flood risk and event management
14. Flooding is damaging and can be enormously
disruptive in rural areas. Whilst heavy rainfall cannot be prevented,
weather forecasting now sufficiently accurate to enable the Environment
Agency to predict areas and levels where flooding is a risk.
15. We are, however, far less able to make
the most effective use of heavy rainfall to recharge aquifers
or to provide areas where water can be stored. Cultivation techniques
can be modified to ensure increased infiltration, whilst continuous
ground cover by vegetation can reduce runoff. Maintenance of hedgerows,
field margins and buffer zones, helps to reduce erosion. Fields
that are too steep to be ploughed safely by following the contours,
tend to be ploughed by running up and down the contours. This
can lead to rapid runoff, soil erosion and reduced rates of percolation
into aquifers. It would be possible to target steep land that
is used for arable cultivation, because it provides a better return
than pasture, to ensure that it is restored to grassland. Appropriate
and sufficiently attractive incentives would need to be offered,
to encourage growers to restore to grassland and to manage it.
The impact that this kind of pastoral restoration would have,
however, would be very limited when compared with the scale of
the problem that needs to be addressed.
16. Reductions in stocking rates in ESA
and CSS agreement areas that were formerly overgrazed, is helping
to increase the sponge capacity of moorland soils in a number
of upland areas. Whilst this is helping to reduce rates of runoff,
increases in shrubby plant and tree cover will have an effect
of archaeological features and the ease with which walkers and
riders will be able to cross access areas.
17. The most effective way of reducing the
levels of flooding suffered during heavy rainfall and storm events,
would be to hold water back in the uplands or to divert it into
washlands adjoining rivers and upstream of towns or village that
are at greatest risk from flooding. Such measures would have significant
implications for the integrity of some National Parks and for
the productivity of improved pastures or arable areas that are
suitable of use as washlands. Given the right incentives, landowners
would be willing to make land available for flood alleviation
Minimising risks to wetland biodiversity
18. Abstraction from aquifers or surface
waters can have a significant effect on fens and wetlands fed
by groundwater. Watercourses can also be damaged by excessive
draw down from aquifers that underlie them. For example, a new
borehole location enabled far more natural artesian groundwater
to reach Redgrave and Lopham Fen NNR in Suffolk. This, and a range
of site restoration works have resulted in significant improvements
to this SAC.
19. Riparian zones of river can be damaged
by excessive amounts of water and erosion during flooding. Conversely
they are damaged by too little water in times of drought or as
a result of over abstraction. Both scenarios could result from
climate change. Aquatic invertebrates that live in the upper reaches
of rivers, particularly those in upland areas, are particularly
susceptible to changes in water quality and temperature. The status
of some species is already threatened by acid rain and the fact
that rainfall now precipitates around 20 kg/ha/pa of nitrogen
on upland areas within England and Wales. Most of this derives
from vehicle exhauststhe switch from leaded to unleaded
petrol, increased the levels of another pollutant. The future
of these susceptible and important indicator species will be threatened
even more by excessive spates and periods of drought and warm
20. River engineering has had a poor record
in the past and damage to biodiversity and losses of landscape
features were among the casualties. Employment of ecologists by
the Environment Agency has enabled engineers to plan and carry
out schemes that not only less damaging, but can and do provide
biodiversity gains. There is, however, still an excessive amount
of closely mown grassland adjacent to flood defence assets. Some
of this is justified by the risk of mammal damage, where rodents
and others excavate holes in flood banks and other assetsbut
only, if the grass and wild flowers are left to grow up.
21. Biodiversity could be enhanced by the
creation of wetlands, but only if these are designed to be permanent
and not just transitory features. Land will need to be found,
to enable these features to be created and managed. Owners and
farmers could be willing partners, if the provision of biodiversity
is accepted as an economically viable "public good".
Country Land and Business Association