William Powell Country

Water for Food group


Article written by 18 July 2013

The ‘Water for Food’ group has issued a reminder to farmers during the current heat wave that farm businesses will need to increasingly plan against the risk of water scarcity in future.

The group was created during the 2012 drought and its membership reflects a wide range of interests in how water is used for food production – membership organisations like the NFU, CLA, CAAV and HTA; technical and research bodies like Cranfield University, the UK Irrigation Association, the Potato Council and the Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA), together with the Environment Agency  to represent regulatory and environmental interests.

Paul Hammett, NFU national water resources specialist who sits on the group said: “The Water for Food group is all about learning the lessons of the last drought and planning for the next one. Thanks to the unprecedented rainfall of past months, irrigators are going full throttle with few problems. But we hope that the group’s checklist will help farmers when they come to improving their water security in the longer term.”

The Water for Food groups’ checklist for farmers and accompanying statement follows:

Current high pressure means warm, dry conditions in the middle of the growing season and the potential for ‘low-flows’.  So it is a timely reminder for farmers and growers to think and plan ahead for long-term water needs to protect businesses and maintain profitability.  A discussion at this week’s meeting of the Water for Food Group* –offered the following checklist to consider:

  • Planting drought tolerant crops, harvesting rainwater, high flow storage, options for sharing resources with other abstractors.
  • Buying water from other abstractors and increasing connectivity among existing water sources.
  • Establishing a Water Abstractor Group with neighbours.
  • Switching irrigation technologies and introducing good irrigation scheduling practices to save energy and water costs.
  • Looking at night irrigation as an option.
  • Extending your licenced abstraction season to match your irrigation season.
  • Applying to take high summer flows to top up reservoir storage.
  • Planting shelter belts to reduce water stress on crops during droughts.

Check your licence details and, at all times, adhere to licence conditions.  The Environment Agency has published some ‘top tips’ for complying with your abstraction licence on their website.

Sources of information:

UK Irrigation Association – www.ukia.org for resources and irrigation booklets saving water and money, forming abstractor groups, building farm reservoirs, and switching technologies.

Environment Agency website for water situation reporting and leaflets on water rights trading; rainwater harvesting – on farm guide; water efficiency and changing an existing licence

Horticultural Development Company for Factsheets on irrigating hardy nursery-stock.

* The Water for Food Group comprises ADA, CAAV, CLA, Cranfield University, EA, HTA, NFU, Potato Council, and UKIA


The NFU champions British farming and provides professional representation and services to its Farmer and Grower members. It is the largest farming organisation in the UK, providing a strong, respected and independent voice for the indust.. Read more.

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