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The importance of water to a farm's productivity

The recent weather has served to highlight the importance of water to a farms productivity. As has been widely reported, heat and water stress has caused many crops to stop growing or to fail. The prospects for harvesting big yields this year are not great.

Water for irrigation which comes out of the ground from boreholes or from rivers, streams and reservoirs is very valuable for increasing crop yields and as a result, land with access to water is more valuable than land without it.

Andrew Spinks, Agri-Business Consultant in our Norwich office, recently attended a meeting in Westminster where the water companies met to discuss their strategy for water supply going forwards for the next few years. It served to highlight the importance of farming to the nations water quality. At some point, most of the water that the water companies use fell on a farmer’s field. Topics for discussion included the role that farmers play in keeping water clean, the natural capital value of farming was recognised and examples of where water companies pay farmers to manage their land to improve water quality and stop flooding were discussed.

Future security of supply for the water companies, particularly in the South East was also discussed and the prospect of infrastructure projects such as the construction of reservoirs were mentioned in the conversation. Supplying households with water is incredibly important, and challenging; it demands the homeowner and housebuilder to take their share of the responsibility in conserving water. This is all relevant to farmers because they have the same problems facing them. It may be tempting to think that water supply is infinite, and farmers need water so they will always have water, but this is not the case.

To secure a sustainable supply for agriculture, landowners and businesses should proactively manage and invest in their supply to ensure it is being used profitably and sustainably. Having had discussions over the previous year with the Environment Agency’s national leads on water strategy and digitalisation, and Brown&Co contacts in Australia and California, it is obvious that the current licensing framework will change and evolve. Australian and Californian abstractors often have remote access water meters which transmit real-time abstraction data to their government authorities, allowing quick decisions on when and what to abstract. Several of the consultation documents published by the UK government look at real-time and variable rate pumping for abstraction into agricultural reservoirs, so that at times of high rainfall when rivers are flooding, abstractors can pump extra water to alleviate potential problems. 

Consistently, the best results for agricultural abstractors comes when they are proactive and develop a strategy for managing their water supply, agricultural abstraction is worth a lot, get it wrong, cause conflict and you could lose what is a valuable asset and damage farm profitability. We are working with a number of clients to develop water strategy for their business, locating grants, negotiating with neighbours, developing collaborative projects and achieving constructive results with the Environment Agency. Reservoirs are a great asset to any farm business and we are currently managing the development of a number of reservoirs, from the initial discussion right through to completion.

Water supply is a challenge for the farming industry, which needs to be met head on.

For more information, or to discuss water strategy for your farm or business, contact Andrew Spinks.
01603 598432 | 07880 471259 | andrew.spinks@brown-co.com