NFU warns farmers on water security

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is urging farmers to make “water security checks” in light of the recent “extreme” weather.

According to the NFU, since heavy rainfall has persisted into the New Year, it is difficult to believe the situation the country was in 12 months ago. The NFU has also said that it was important to remember that, following two consecutively dry winters in 2012/11 and 2011/12 farmers had been prevented from filling their reservoirs. It was only after discussions between the NFU and the Environment Agency that a “flexible approach” to licensing was adopted, which allowed farmers to fill reservoirs when river flows allowed.  

NFU national water resource specialist Paul Hemmett explained this was an important lesson learned during the drought. He said: “When the chips were down, farmers worked closely with the Agency and other users, such as the public water companies, to better understand local supply and demand needs.

“The decision to waive the rules by allowing farmers to operate outside the conditions of their licences was a huge step forward in building trust and in managing limited water resources.”

Future

The focus for farmers is now on building resilience into future water availability on farms to enable them to be in a better position in the event of a drought in the future. For this, the NFU recommends that farmers review their abstraction licences now.

“It’s great that the Agency helped farmers out during last year’s unforeseen emergency,” Hammett added, “but we all need to think of ways to improve water security on farms in the longer term.

“Many farmers would benefit from a discussion about formalising last year’s temporary arrangements to reduce future uncertainty.”

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