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Our catchment management initiatives

When the water industry was privatised in 1989, borders were created along the lines of the river basins that gave many of the companies their names. Our sector has since been defined by these catchments. The years following privatisation have seen a transformation in standards, with companies radically improving all key aspects of the service they provide customers, and greatly reducing their impacts on the environment. However, the investment that has made this possible has, largely been through traditional, ‘hard’ engineering solutions, which rarely address problems at source.

Managing our catchments by addressing issues at their source can offer better value or greater benefits. We have a long tradition of catchment projects and programmes, from pioneering work in the 1990s to protect drinking water sources from pesticides used on railway lines, to our award-winning recent programme to install sustainable drainage in schools, managing flood risk and creating new nature reserves in urban catchments.

We face many, varied challenges that mean we need to evolve the ways we work. Rapid population growth and changing weather patterns are placing an increasing pressure on our ageing infrastructure, while we strive to meet higher environmental standards. We continue to work with landowners to reduce diffuse pollution across our catchments. We've also designed an industry-first initiative which will deliver a more holistic approach to improving our river catchments.

Our ‘Smarter Water Catchments’ initiatives

We’re putting this approach into practice to understand how we can achieve key benefits while working in a more holistic way. The first step on this journey is to co-create a catchment plan with key stakeholders who either operate within this environment and/or have a vested interest in protecting and enhancing it. For the period of 2020 to 2025 we’re trialling this in 3 catchments and will be working in partnership to deliver the plans.

How we manage pesticides and nitrate

The use of pesticides and nitrate can affect the quality of rivers and groundwater which we use to produce drinking water. Some of the ways we're working with farmers and landowners to reduce this include:

  • Raising awareness with key groups
  • Working with farmers and agricultural advisors to target our projects in the most important areas
  • Partnering with local groups trusted by farmers to support catchment management
  • Funding research into best practice land management methods. These include cover crop and slow-release fertiliser trials, as well as investigating the use of swales and biofilters
  • Working with our neighbouring water companies that also use water from the River Thames

Alongside our Catchment Fund and metaldehyde work, which we explain in more detail later on this page, in targeted areas we also offer:

  • Water quality updates for farmers and agricultural advisors
  • Events to share learning and best practice
  • Free one to one advice for farmers on water quality measures

Every farm and every field can make a difference. Learn about steps to protect river and groundwater quality on your farm in our guide

Catchment Fund

We’re offering up to £10,000 per farm business to help farmers in target areas protect water quality. Eligible activities include infrastructure, land management or equipment changes. We'll also support innovative farming proposals for improving water quality.

The fund will be available in specific surface water and groundwater target areas. The options will primarily address pesticides in surface water and nitrate in groundwater.

For more information look at our handbook or speak with our local project partner in your area. You can also email our team.

Submit your application by 30 November 2021.

Future projects managing pesticides and nitrate

We'll continue to work with farmers and land managers to reduce the risk from nitrate and certain pesticides, in addition to metaldehyde, that are frequently detected in our rivers and groundwater. We'll be offering:

  • Water quality updates to provide water quality data to farmers and agronomists, to ensure they are kept up to date with emerging trends in their area
  • Events to share learning and best practice, and 1-1 advice to discuss measures farmers can take on their own farms to protect water quality with agricultural specialists
  • Catchment Fund (from 2021 onwards) in high priority areas, providing funding towards infrastructure improvements and land management changes that will help to improve water quality

For more information about our catchment-based initiatives, please email us.

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