The Integrated Water Management report, published today by the National Farmer’s Union (NFU), is calling for a collaborative long term approach between government, water companies and farmers to “properly invest” in water management as a critical response to climate change and farmer’s ability to produce food.
Stuart Roberts, Deputy President of the NFU said it was “vital” to think long term in managing flooding and drought risk.
The report shows more than half of farmers (57 percent), reported experiencing extreme weather conditions, such as flooding or drought, in the past ten years.
This, Mr Roberts, said, shows why there is a pressing need to “further equip” farmers with tools to manage extreme weather events.
“The creation of a multi-sector integrated water management strategy would help secure a fair share of water for agriculture and establish the agri-food sector as an essential user of water.
“We saw last week the impact of Storm Christoph leaving hundreds of acres of productive farmland under water.
“As the entire nation continues to deal with more volatile weather, now is the time to look at the bigger picture, as these extremes are impacting British farming’s ability to produce food,” Mr Roberts said.
Mr Roberts said there was also a need to think long term rather than “reacting” every time we are hit by a severe storm or a spell of hot, dry weather.
“Co-operation and collaboration between farmers, government and water companies is vital in our response to managing flooding and drought risk, to protect productive farmland and ensure farmers are getting their fair share of water,” he said.
The report sets out why this approach is needed and how significant investment in water infrastructure is “crucial” to protect existing farmland and food production during extreme weather events as well as increasing food security.
“Critical to this will be significant investment in our water infrastructure – an ambitious upgrade of ageing flood defences, drainage and waterways,” Mr Roberts said.
“We should embrace Britain’s great engineering and science skills to look at ways of how we can collect and store water when some parts have too little and others too much.
“This could enable farmers to grow more fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, or other crops here in Britain, in addition to farming smarter to bring down our emissions and help achieve our net zero ambition by 2040.
The NFU is now calling for farmers and land managers to be “part of the solution” and take on-farm action to achieve these goals.
“Crucially, farmers are ready to play their part,” he said.
There are already great examples of farmers adapting their businesses to make them more resilient to extreme weather.
“They can do much more as long as they have support and the tools to do so. A serious commitment by government, water companies and farmers to invest in our water infrastructure will have benefits for everyone.”