Memorandum by the East Suffolk Water Abstractors
East Suffolk Water Abstractors Group represents
the interests of 80 irrigation abstractors in East Suffolk. The
group believes that the home production of food from sustainable
resources is the most environmentally acceptable. Five thousand
five hundred hectares of vegetables are grown in the area. Potatoes,
carrots and onions are the major crops, although the variety ranges
from melons and strawberries to "mange touts" and swedes.
There are also several large nurseries in the area including Messrs.
Notcutts who alone employ 300 people. The group's database shows
that the growing of irrigated crops produces in excess of £10
million annually for the local economy from direct and indirect
employment. A study being carried out at the University of East
Anglia on behalf of the group has shown that, for climatic and
other reasons, a proportion of the East Suffolk production could
not be substituted elsewhere in the UK. It would, therefore, necessitate
importation. The transport required to carry this produce to the
nearest UK port would create an extra 5,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide
The continuity of this industry is dependent
upon a reliable water supply for irrigation. This is needed to
ensure a return on, not just on the high amount of working capital
required, but also the continued investment required on new technology.
This supply is coming under increasing threat
in the near future. Firstly, from environmental pressure through
the Habitat and Birds directives which protects the estuaries
and marshes for wading birds of which East Suffolk has many. Secondly,
from climate change which will be managed by the Catchment Abstraction
Management Strategy (CAMS) and Section 57 drought orders which
can curtail direct summer spray irrigation abstraction. Much of
the East Suffolk abstraction is currently direct summer abstraction
from rivers or the ground aquifer.
East Suffolk Water Abstractors Group believes
that the long term answer for avoiding potential curtailment of
abstraction is to construct winter storage reservoirs. These would
be filled with surplus water flows from rivers and streams. Climate
change predictions are for warmer summers but wetter and milder
winters. The reservoirs might be individually owned or more probably
The Group is asking for support for this idea.
Help will be needed in the form of grant aid for the construction
of such reservoirs and related works. Also, in the easing of bureaucratic
and planning restrictions to enable the construction of the reservoirs
to take place.
Although I have quoted details for East Suffolk,
the main principles apply to other areas of the United Kingdom
where irrigation takes place. In Suffolk and Norfolk, environmental
concerns are the greatest threat to irrigation abstraction. In
the South East and central England there is further pressure from
public water supply requirements.