Charlie Andrews is a Graduate Surveyor based in our Yeovil office. His love of fishing inspired him to write his dissertation on the quality of river water in the south west. He keeps a watchful eye on Rural Grants designed to improve water quality - hoping this will help him catch more fish!
Having spent many long hours each summer up to my waist in the rivers of the South West hoping to catch a trout (occasionally successfully), I decided that researching the quality of the water I was standing in would be a good subject for the dissertation I needed to complete my degree at the Royal Agricultural University. Little did I know what I was getting myself into; after wading through 1.6 million pieces of data, the findings summarised in my 10,000 word dissertation looking at the links between agriculture and river water quality were reassuringly good. Over the past 20 years, the rivers of the South West have been improving, with reducing or stable levels of some key indicators of water quality. Changes in farming practices and technologies have increased efficiency, and improvements in fertilisers and chemicals applied and an increase in organic farming have all played a part in improving water quality.
There is a significant way to go before our rivers run clean, and with factors like industrial pollution and run off from urban areas, the issue of water quality is a broad and complex one for policy makers. However, there is funding available to those in the Agricultural and Rural sector to address the issue. The recently launched Farming Investment Fund (FIF) encourages a more sustainable and efficient agricultural industry with a key aim being water supply and quality. Within the fund are grants for equipment aimed at increasing farm efficiency and productivity, and a specific Water Management grant for more substantial technology on farms.
The England Woodland Creation Offer provides grant funding for tree planting with greater levels of funding available where there is a benefit to water quality. Looking ahead to the full implementation of the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) in 2024, we expect to see a significant focus on water quality, with farmers and land managers paid for delivering clean and plentiful water, amongst a number of other objectives.
Clearly the Government agenda is to improve water quality - who knows, it might even help me catch more fish!