Challenges & Choices: Water and Agriculture in the Nene Valley

27 Feb 2020

In support of the Environment Agency Challenges and Choices Consultation, we take a look at how agriculture impacts our water here in the Nene Valley, how we're working to eradicate this, and what you can do to help.

In October 2019, the Environment Agency launched a public consultation to assess views on the challenges faced by our waterways and what changes and actions need to be taken to tackle them. As the first in a series of blogs to illustrate how these challenges affect us here in the Nene Valley, we're exploring the impacts farming and rural areas have on the River Nene and what we're doing to ensure a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

The Challenges

Pollutants in our rivers:

  • Fertilisers and pesticides upset the balance of river ecosystems, by accelerating algal growth and lowering the diversity of plant life, which impacts the quality of our water.
  • Pollutants from farms, such as slurry, silage, fertilisers and pesticides are directed into our waterways by storms and wet weather. 
Poor Soil Health

  • 2 million hectares of land in the UK are at serious risk of soil erosion, with weather conditions pushing an increasing amount of silt and sediment into our rivers from farmland.
  • Nitrates and phosphates from soil and the chemicals we add to it are expensive and tricky for water companies to eradicate from the water we drink. 

Erosion of our Riverbanks

  • Cattle and other livestock grazing alongside rivers poach water from our waterways and erode the land that runs alongside them, which impacts the habitat of other wildlife and plantlife.

Our Approach

Nene Catchment Partnership

Catchment Sensitive Farming was set up between Environment Agency, Natural England and the River Nene Regional Park to address issues with sediments, phosphorous and pesticides in the Nene & Welland catchments. The NCP works with farmers in the Nene Valley, educating on soil health and management practices, management of livestock and crops, and supporting them to implement sustainable solutions that promote biodiversity and lessen their impact on the River Nene.

Resilient River

Part of the National Lottery Heritage Funded Nenescape Landscape Partnership scheme, the Resilient River project aims to connect habitats along the River Nene by restoring neglected backchannels and backwaters. This includes putting measures in place to protect areas poached by cattle and put barriers in place to combat chemical and sediment run-off. Keep up to date with the progress of Resilient River, section by section, on our blog.

Acting Locally

We have put in place a series of local working groups, to enable farmers and communities to work together to protect the river. 

Progress so far

The Rivers Trust Annual Review 2018/19, which we are proud to be a part of, and to have contributed towards, was published last year, detailing a host of positive and promising statistics and improvements, including working with 1081 farms nationally. We have been over the moon by the response from farmers in the Nene Catchment and very proud of how hard they are working with us to improve agriculture's relationship with the river ecosystem.

Read more about how we contributed towards these fantastic and encouraging results in the Nene Valley so far, and to download a copy of the full report, read our blog post.

What can you do?

Get involved!

  • There is a multitude of resources, help and support for farmers in the Nene Catchment who want to improve their operations and make them more sustainable for wildlife and the community. Our Agriculture Working Group meets regularly to discuss the ongoing and emerging issues affecting farmers in the area, and the Nene Catchment Partnership partners with Natural England, Defra, Anglian Water and the Environment Agency to hold regular workshops, events and seminars for farmers. Keep an eye on our events pages for the latest dates and topics.
  • Consumers can also be mindful of their agricultural impact on our waterways by always buying produce from accredited farms that are marked by the Environment Agency.

Have your say

The Environment Agency are seeking your views on the challenges our waters face and the choices and changes we all need to make to help tackle those challenges, including the impacts posed by agriculture. We will be exploring more of these challenges on this blog over the coming weeks before the deadline of 24th April 2020.

By responding to this consultation you will be helping to shape the management of the water environment. The information gathered through this consultation will help us update the current river basin management plans, starting with the publication of draft plans in 2020. 

Give your input and be a part of the conversation here.