We’ve started our work in the Evenlode area as part of our Smarter Water Catchments work. This project is to help encourage water sensitive farming and reduce phosphorus from farms and fields entering local watercourses.
The Evenlode is a headwater of the River Thames flowing from Moreton-in-Marsh to Eynsham over a distance of more than 75 km. It drains an area of nearly 30,000 ha and is managed as a number of river ‘waterbodies’.
High levels of phosphorus in river water can damage the environment, for instance by encouraging excessive weed growth and generating algal blooms. For this reason, limits for phosphorus concentrations in our natural waters have been set to protect the environment and the users of the environment.
Human and animal waste, as well as fertilisers, are the main sources of phosphorus in natural waters. Water companies have historically relied on wastewater treatment to reduce concentrations of phosphorus before it reaches rivers. This activity can be expensive, resource intensive and waste generating. We would like to work in partnership with farmers and other groups that may impact the water using a complementary approach called catchment management.
We’re keen to promote and support farming practices that are beneficial for farmers, the water industry, the environment and local inhabitants.
Smarter Water Catchments in the Evenlode area has four components. One of these is the Catchment Fund. This provides grants for infrastructure and farm management specifically designed to reduce the amount of phosphorus lost from fields and farmyards to watercourses. The types of activities and payments provided are set out in the catchment fund leaflet.
Throughout 2017 and 2018, we will be piloting the roll out of the Catchment Fund within the Longborough Stream, Bledington Brook and Westcote Brook waterbodies (see map).
In addition to the catchment fund, we’re offering an advice service to help farmers make the best of existing agri-environment schemes. This service includes free farm visits to help design farm activities that reduce phosphorus loss and deliver other benefits on farmers’ land. We will also be working with the Evenlode Catchment Partnership and other local organisations to deliver river and wetland restoration schemes across the catchment, including their Natural Flood Management pilot in the Evenlode catchment (funded by the Environment Agency and the Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee).
Finally, we’re looking for farmers to work with in a trial to explore the effectiveness of No Till and Cover Crops to reduce the loss of phosphorus to watercourses. From 2018, we will select the most effective parts of the pilot and roll these out to the wider Evenlode catchment.
For more information about these four components and how to get involved, please download the documents below: