The raw water which Anglian Water treats and puts into supply originally comes from rivers, reservoirs or underground aquifers. This raw water quality and quantity is affected by weather patterns and the land areas which drain down to the water source. These land areas are called catchments and three quarters of the land in East Anglia is under agricultural management of some type.
Farmers play a key role in not only producing food for the nation but also protecting the wider environment.
This is why Anglian Water have a team of Agricultural Advisers who seek local solutions to local challenges by working with farmers to reduce risks to raw water quality. Not only will better raw water quality help to keep customer bills low and assist with meeting the growing water demand, it will also support other water users as well as all the habitats and species relying on it.
Growing food is as important as supplying wholesome water thus finding mutually beneficial ways to protect our soil and water resources is the fundamental link between the two industries.
Richard Reynolds heads up Anglian Water’s team of agricultural advisors and believes that as a company we have a responsibility to pro-actively engage with farmers on the issue of water quality.
‘’These days, the pressures on farmers are huge,” he explains. “But when it comes to water quality, doing nothing is not an option. The Anglian Water Catchment Team have been working with farmers since 2015 and I am extremely proud to see the diverse array of solutions and success we have delivered together. Our catchment approach was recognised for a Water Industry Award in 2022, evidencing how raw water protection can be achieved through partnership working at catchment scale’’
What are the issues surrounding agriculture and drinking water?
In England, we enjoy drinking water that is among the best in the world. It is treated to extremely high standards and tested to make sure that it is clean and safe to drink.
During some periods of the year, the only option that water companies, such as Anglian Water, have to maintain these standards is to moderate the amount of water we take from affected sources, to ensure challenges do not exceed the standards for drinking water. But, the approach is not sustainable as it places restrictions on the amount of water available for public supply.
It is almost always more effective to reduce risks at source through Catchment Management, rather than relying solely on treatment alone. Factors which can influence raw water quality are pesticides, nutrients, soil particles, algae and bacteria.
Agriculture is certainly not the only sector affecting raw water quality in our region however and we can all play a part.
Gary Hodgetts, Anglian Water Catchment Advisor says
‘‘We have had great success working with farmers and reducing risks to raw water, but it doesn’t matter how large or small the land area you look after is - anyone from farmers to gardeners or those managing golf courses to paddocks can influence the raw water quality of a river or aquifer. The key element to consider is connectivity - does that drain, gulley, ditch or land area link to a watercourse or aquifer and if it does can you reduce any losses’’.
‘nutri-bio' recycles the final treated product of the multistage water cleansing process otherwise known as Biosolids. It offers farmers and growers an enormous potential to make savings on agronomic inputs by providing valuable quantities of organic material, nitrogen, phosphate, sulphur and magnesium. ‘nutri-bio’ presents an excellent, value for money service, which includes soil sampling, delivery and application, with the benefit of year round availability.