Written evidence submitted by the Environment
The Environment Agency welcomes the Committee's
request to input to its inquiry on the issues facing farmers in
the uplands. The Environment Agency is already working in partnership
with local communities to deliver multiple environmental objectives
whilst maintaining incomes for upland farmers.
1.1. The Environment Agency is the leading public
body for protecting and improving the environment in England and
Wales. We provide independent technical advice, regulate and deliver
a number of services to ensure the sustainable use of natural
resources, including water quality and water quantity. We have
a strategic overview of all forms of flooding and manage the risk
of flooding from main rivers and the sea.
2. ISSUES FACING
2.1. There are a number of environmental management
issues associated with upland farming in which the Environment
Agency has a particular interest, including:
Drainage, burning, overgrazing and trampling
of upland soils (particularly peat) which can lead to increased
soil erosion impacting on the ability of upland soils to hold
carbon and water.
Climate change impacts. UKCIP02 high
emissions scenarios suggested a reduction in the area covered
by typical upland peat of more than 50% in England, Wales and
Scotland by 2050.
This estimate is supported by UKCP09 which indicates a marginally
greater temperature increase for the warmest months in the north
of the United Kingdom than estimated by UKCIP02.
Changes in peatland function could change
rates of runoff; flood risk; water quality and quantity; and carbon
and greenhouse gas fluxes.
2.2. Those working in the uplands are likely
to need to change land management practices to adapt to changes
in weather patterns, including the increased risk of flooding
from climate change.
3. DELIVERING MULTIPLE
3.1. The uplands deliver a number of ecosystem
benefits. These services underpin basic human health and survival
needs as well as supporting economic activities and enjoyment
of life. They include local flood risk management, improvement
in water quality, reduction in water colouration and an increase
3.2. Upland hydrology is extremely complex,
considerable research is ongoing which has shown that drainage
ditches (grips) can capture large areas of upslope drainage and
siphon off water into the drainage network. It has also shown
that flow velocities in the ditches can be up to two orders of
magnitude faster than overland flow over the hill slope. Water
flow arrives at the catchment outlet much faster potentially increasing
3.3. Much of the drinking water is collected
in the uplands. This water is affected by the impacts of grazing
on soils, water movement and erosion. Levels of Dissolved Organic
Matter and Dissolved Organic Carbon have almost doubled in upland
waters since the late 1980s.
Catchment management approaches involving water companies, farmers,
land managers and others are more sustainable than increasingly
intensive treatment processes. They can offer wider benefits to
wildlife, flood alleviation and carbon sequestration and help
deliver the Water Framework Directive (WFD) obligations.
3.4. River Basin Management Plans and Catchment
Flood Management Plans provide the framework for delivering multiple
objectives in the uplands. These plans confirm the actions required,
including flood risk management, water quality, ecology and biodiversity
and provide a framework for delivering actions, and benefits,
4. LOCAL PROJECTS
4.1. The Environment Agency is involved in a
number of local projects looking at the benefits derived from
land use change including flood risk management and water quality.
4.2. We are working in partnership with private
landowners in the Belford Catchment, Northumberland to create
a number of on farm storage ponds, in-stream wetlands and floodplain
woodlands. These have already been shown to reduce the level of
flooding in the town of Belford, providing benefits to those at
risk whilst maintaining an income for the landowners by allowing
them to continue their normal farm management practices.
4.3. United Utilities' Sustainable Catchment
Management Project (SCaMP) in the North West was developed, in
association with the RSPB, to apply an integrated approach to
catchment management in two key areas. It aimed to help achieve
government targets for SSSIs, enhance biodiversity, ensure a sustainable
future for the company's agricultural tenants and protect and
improve water quality. In addition to the main project, the Environment
Agency jointly commissioned research with Defra to estimate the
impact of the SCaMP works on flood risk. The analysis of early
short-term impacts seems to show that the SCaMP works did not
have a marked effect on discharge in the river network.
4.4. We are involved in all three Defra multi-objective
demonstration projects, "Slowing the flow at Pickering",
Making space for Water in the Upper Derwent Valley" and the
"Holnicote estate" which have benefited from £1
million of Defra's adaptation fund. All three projects have upland
elements integral to them and are good examples of public private
partnership working to deliver multiple objectives. In particular
the "slowing the flow" project in Pickering led by Forest
Research is working with a number of private partners including,
the Duchy of Lancaster and the North York Moors Railway as well
as private tenants. The project will investigate how land management
can help to reduce the potential for flooding in Pickering,North
Yorkshire and the lessons that can be applied to other communities
and cities across the country. The wider environmental benefits
of the measures will also be assessed.
4.5. The Environment Agency is currently working
with the water industry in delivering over 100 catchment investigations
and management schemes in the latest periodic review (PR09). The
Environment Agency also chairs the Catchment Forum, a partnership
between the water industry, the Environment Agency, the Drinking
Water Inspectorate, Natural England and Ofwat, that aims to facilitate
further investment in this approach. We are also hoping to initiate
a project with Ofwat and the water industry to provide guidance
on valuing the multiple benefits that catchment management may
bring. It is intended that this will support our planning for
the next periodic review (PR14) and the development of measures
for the second cycle of river basin planning under WFD.
4.6. The Environment Agency has facilitated
the formation and work of the Upland Hydrology Group (UHG) which
brings together those who have a direct interest in the delivery
of multiple benefits from the uplands and those who own and manage
the uplands. The group has focused on identifying what is already
known, and what we need to know in quantifying and delivering
water quantity and water quality benefits from the uplands.
5.1. We are seeking to work in partnerships
wherever appropriate on these important topics.
5.2. We recognise that the uplands have an important
role to play in delivering multiple benefits including flood risk
management and water quality. Through work with farmers, land
managers, and water companies we will continue to promote the
wise use of upland agricultural systems.
7 From Environment Agency science report: SR070036 Back