East Malling Research is leading a project to support South East rural businesses to enhance their profitability and competitiveness by improving their water availability and irrigation use efficiency. The ‘Water Advisory Team for Efficient Resource Recovery’ (WATERR) project is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the South East ERDF competiveness programme 2007-2013.
The aim of the WATERR project is to provide farmers and growers with the tools and information needed to enable them to save costs, improve yields and produce quality and increase overall financial returns in the future. It will enable irrigators to compare their own water use efficiency with their peers within the South East region and provide information on which technologies and practices represent ‘best practice’. The aim is to safeguard the water using interests of growers for the future.
Over two thirds of the Environment Agency’s South East region is over abstracted and/or over licensed and the situation is expected to deteriorate in the next 20 years. This situation is untenable and a programme of action needs to be implemented to safeguard the River catchments under threat. The Government is consulting on future licensing in the UK over the next 12 months with a view to having a new scheme in place before the end of this decade. To protect future abstraction and licensing interests, it is vital that rural businesses demonstrate a commitment to improving the efficiency with which this scare resource is used. This study will feed into the consultation process to promote the action of the industry in improving water utilization.
We will collect data to identify and categorise current water use so that the technologies and practices which make the greatest contribution to improved performance can be identified. In addition to understanding what constitutes current ‘best practice’, participating growers will then receive advice and support on how to improve their own on-farm water use efficiency.
Participants will benefit in many ways, including:
- Gaining knowledge and understanding of practical ways to improve water use efficiency
- Access to water industry specialists
- Opportunities to question and influence those involved in determining future legislation
- A clear understanding of how abstraction licensing reform will affect drip/trickle irrigators
- Increased awareness of the water supply/demand balance in the region and how it might be improved
- An understanding of how efficient irrigation can increase marketable yields and quality
- Participation at workshops and seminars designed for your own sector of the industry
- Visiting sites which demonstrate irrigation ‘best practice’ at first hand
- Learning from the experiences of irrigators in other sectors of the industry