Farmers embrace Upstream Thinking to protect the environment

A new survey has revealed high satisfaction levels with South West Water’s decision to help farmers protect the environment.

The company’s catchment management project works with the award-winning Upstream Thinking scheme – a partnership between the water company, Devon Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Westcountry Rivers Trust, and Exmoor National Park Authority.

In total, 94 per cent of surveyed farmers gave the work the thumbs up.

South West Water commissioned the research on behalf of Upstream Thinking project and the results showed high levels of satisfaction with the project’s delivery partners across all aspects of service provided.

Upstream Thinking promotes environmentally sensitive farming and the restoration of habits, including wetlands.

It is working to improve water quality in the region’s rivers through best practice in land management, supported by capital grants where appropriate.

In total, 110 interviews were conducted through a combination of online and telephone data collection methodology, with 51 respondents stating they had received grant funding from South West Water.

One in four of the farmers interviewed received other follow-up services, in addition to the farm grants offered. For example, farm advisors visited farms and carried out assessments resulting in a whole-farm plan. This includes a water management plan and future capital investment proposals, which could be up to 50 per cent funded by Upstream Thinking.

Upstream Thinking

Upstream Thinking promotes environmentally sensitive farming and the restoration of habits, including wetlands

These can comprise improvements to slurry or manure storage, fencing to keep livestock out of rivers, providing alternative water sources for livestock, and better soil or pesticide management.

Other services include free collection and disposal of obsolete pesticides, Countryside Stewardship applications, and nutrient management plans soil testing for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium.

There is also the opportunity for access to specialist machinery such as aerators, which reduce compaction, encouraging infiltration, growth and sward recovery.

Over 60 per cent of those interviewed stated they were very satisfied with the appropriateness of the suggested activities identified by the Upstream Thinking advisors, with 94 per cent feeling satisfied or very satisfied with the usefulness of the plan to their business.

‘First-class’ advice from Upstream Thinking

A farmer who took part in the survey said: “The advice we’ve received from the Upstream Thinking project has been first class and it’s good to be dealing with local people who know what our business is about.”

David Smith, South West Water’s Upstream Thinking Environment Manager, said:“South West Water is committed to supporting farmers and helping them manage their farms for cleaner fresh water in the catchments we operate within.

“This is beneficial to their businesses as well as ours and I’m delighted that this survey shows we are targeting our support into areas which farmers appreciate.”

Alex Inman, who conducted the survey, commented: “The results from this survey clearly illustrate that the project is delivering a personalised approach which is well-received by the farming community.

“Farmers welcome the combination of South West Water and local delivery partner involvement and are well disposed to further engagement going forward including the adoption of woodland planting and other land use changes to help protect water resources.”

Since 2010, South West Water has worked to improve the water quality at 1,290 farms upstream of drinking water reservoirs and river abstractions. It has also restored 7,997 acres (3,236 hectares) of moorland, culm grass and other habitats.

About Author