Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Water Framework Directive – How can agriculture help deliver a better water environment? And how can you contribute?

Robert Brotherton, Principal Officer for Agriculture and Land Management within the Environment Agency’s Yorkshire and North East Region Environment and Performance Team explains: 

Diffuse pollution is one of the major challenges to the provision of that essential commodity for human life, a clean water supply.   How can we, at the Environment Agency, work with land managers and other key partners to address this situation?

The European Water Framework Directive is one of the major drivers for action on clean water and over the last few years the Environment Agency has changed the way we work towards a "catchment approach" that aims to deliver the outcomes this legislation demands and which should reduce diffuse pollution.  Now there is a real opportunity for land managers and other stakeholders to contribute to the current “Challenges and Choices” consultation that the EA is carrying out and that will help deliver the necessary changes.

We know that we need to produce more food for a growing population.  A drive for “Sustainable Intensification” will lead to expectations to raise yields, and ensure we use resources such as fertilisers more efficiently.  But increasing yields is no longer sufficient.    We also need to reduce the environmental effects of food production. That requires economic and social changes to recognise the multiple outputs required of land managers, farmers and other food producers, and a redirection of research to address a more complex set of aims.

Agriculture itself relies on a sustainably managed environment, with reliable, clean water and well managed soil, essential to underpin food security and growth. But the impacts from agriculture on the land, water and air environment in turn, can be significant; around a third of known reasons for failure of the Water Framework Directive are attributed to agriculture.

So it’s not going to be easy or straightforward.  Changes to climate, increasing global population and concerns over energy and food security will intensify and make even greater demands on land in the future.   Government agencies will have to work closely with the people who manage land and their advisers if the future demands for food production are to be met, while we also meet requirements for improving the environment.   

Whether you are a land manager or other stakeholder, or you just have a view about how the Environment Agency should be approaching these complex questions, we welcome your views.

For more information on the challenges and choices consultation and how to have your say see

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