CHELMER AND BLACKWATER CATCHMENT PARTNERSHIP

We always want to provide our customers with clean, clear water that tastes good.

This means making sure that the quality of the water that we take from the natural environment to clean and deliver to our customers is the best it can possibly be.

The quality of the water we use depends on the quality of the water that drains through land in the area into rivers, lakes and groundwater. So the way that land is used and managed can have a huge effect on water quality.

Rather than rely on trying to clean the water when it reaches the water treatment works it made sound sense for us, and for the environment, that we work in partnership with land owners to ensure that water sources are protected from pollution.

That’s why we’ve been working closely with the farming community since 2009, holding events, training and farm visits to help them reduce the amount of nitrate, phosphate, pesticides and sediment that enters the rivers Chelmer and Blackwater and their tributaries.

The Chelmer and Blackwater Catchment Partnership, as it is known, was one of the UK’s first partnerships of its kind to tackle this kind of water pollution.

It’s a joint initiative between Essex & Suffolk Water, the Environment Agency, and Natural England through Catchment Sensitive Farming. It’s also supported by farmers, agronomists, the National Farmers Union and the Rivers Trust.

Farmers are being advised on how to store, handle and apply pesticides, fertilisers and manure, soil management and how to protect the watercourses when they use the farm yard, for example when they are filling up crop sprayers.

932 farmers have attended events so far and 571 one to one farm advisory visits have taken place, such as farm health checks, fertiliser spreader calibration or soil analysis visits with farmers.

Almost 60% of the agricultural area is engaged with the partnership and farmers have been able to take part in the national Catchment Sensitive Farming Capital Grant Scheme. So far we’ve had 45 successful applications, which have secured £253,629 of investment.

The Partnership has also supported studies and research projects which have included a farm pesticide investigation report, nitrate study and the removal of the slug and snail pesticide, known as metaldehyde, through a biological filter.

River water quality in the catchment is improving and the Partnership will continue its good work to make sure that this continues.