Tuesday 04 Dec 2012: South West Water – a business perspective on sustainability
Martin Ross - South West Water
South West Water is undertaking an £8.8m programme of catchment management projects called 'Upstream Thinking' in Devon, Cornwall and on Exmoor. From 2010 to 2015 some 700 farms and 2,000 hectares of upland SSSIs will be improved to reduce erosion, soil carbon and manure loss.
By slowing rates of water flow, reservoirs and rivers used for drinking water supply will be protected. Interrupting the flood hydrograph and ensuring improved flows in droughts offer protection to downstream customers, business and biodiversity. Further projects are being developed for the next water industry business plan period from 2015 to 2020 which will include 'rewards for farming clean reliable water' and signpost landowners to opportunities for carbon offsetting payments.
Many research questions arise about the effects of catchment management and eight UK universities (including Exeter and staff at the Tremough Campus) are undertaking collaborative work with South West Water to identify the effects of changes as wetted moorland increases and farms release less sediment, fertilizers and other pollutants to watercourses. Upstream Thinking for farmed land is being delivered by Westcountry Rivers Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust as they all have extensive knowledge of the ways to optimise and improve farming activities so that farm incomes increase. Upland work is being implemented with Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities, the Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage. Landowner, commoner and tenant interests are fully addressed with those of a wide range of stakeholders.
The Natural Environment Research Council has awarded two six-month internships at PhD level to develop Paid Ecosystem Service payment schemes for the value of water and carbon management being achieved by participants in the programme.
More profitable farming is allowing the land to be used less intensively, with benefits to water systems and biodiversity. The Upstream Thinking programme is endorsed by regulators including the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Drinking Water Inspectorate, with its cost being significantly less than customers' willingness to pay for additional environmental improvements. The presentation will describe several case studies across South West Water's operating area, with the positive results and gains which are being achieved to date.