Plan To Reduce Water Pollution From Farming

The managing director of Welsh Water’s wastewater services is considering introducing a scheme to reduce pollution runoff from farmed land, the South Wales Guardian reports. Under the new proposals, farmers would be given rewards for limited the amount of polluting fertilisers and chemicals that is washed off their land and into watercourses.

Steve Wilson, MD of Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water), said that the proposals would be discussed during a panel at the Royal Welsh Show. The plans are part of a wider consultation into wastewater management in Wales, in response to the statutory requirement through the Environment Act 2021.

The new requirements have been introduced to oblige water companies to produce long-term drainage and wastewater management plans. The aim is to mitigate the effects of pollution, benefit the environment, and improve the existing infrastructure. It should also reduce the discharges from storm overflows, and improve the treatment of sewage.

An Ofwat spokesman said: “It’s important that wastewater companies understand the public concern around pollution and climate change and ensure that they comply with their legal obligations.”

“We welcome the publication of the plans, which are an important step in reducing pollution incidents and addressing the impact of climate change and population growth, while ensuring the resilience of drainage and wastewater services.”

Steve Wilson also said he would be considering plans to make it more difficult for Welsh householders to Tarmac over their front gardens, which increases surface runoff and elevates the water levels. This increases the potential for raw sewage to enter watercourses, during peak flow times when storm overflows are filled.

Currently, storm overflow pipes are used to channel excess surface water and sewage into the sea and rivers, and because of the more frequent intense weather episodes over the past decade, this has been happening on a more regular basis. The pollution has led to severe criticism from environmental pressure groups, and wild swimmers.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is also concerned at the volume of phosphates entering rivers through runoff from cultivated farming fields. In fact, over 60% of the water bodies in Wales fail the targets set for river phosphate levels, spurring calls for tougher action.

One proposal to reduce phosphate levels in rivers is to install phosphate stripping technology in all water treatment works.

Mr Wilson told Wales Online that: “Welsh Water had 164 sewage works in river SACs and that it was adding phosphate stripping to 11 of them on the Wye, and planned to bring forward schemes for others.”

He continued: “… doing so at smaller sewage works serving smaller communities made less environmental and financial sense, especially in rural areas where 60% to 70% of nutrient run-off came from agriculture.

Adding that: “… offering farmers money to reduce run-off by using less fertiliser, for example, or by planting the edge of their riverside fields with trees, could be a better option.”

There was also a warning that the cost of extra measures would be passed on to customers in the end, at a time when the average water bill was already rising by £20 per year.


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