Growers need to review the possibilities for developing their own systems for water collection, recycling and other ways of increasing efficiency of usage.
ADAS consultants completed independent water audits at 20 South East nurseries during the summer of 2008, at which their water management was scored against a structured proforma.
SEEDA Horticultural Working Group chairman Andrew Colquhoun said: "This is a potentially important project for nurseries in the region. Particularly in the south east (of England), they are under increasing pressure to reduce water consumption.
"The water shortages that occurred in the summer of 2006 may become more frequent. Growers using mains supplies face rising water costs, and those who have abstraction licences are likely to face tougher legislation in relation to permits in the future."
The majority of nurseries that were audited demonstrated an above-average standard of water management strategy and legal compliance. The major areas for future improvement related to water collection and recycling.
But the project findings indicate that many nurseries are still to be convinced that capital expenditure on water collection and recycling systems can be recouped within the five to 10 years necessary for a sound business case.
The audit reports also flagged up the practical problems that nurseries and growers might face in becoming more self-reliant on their water supplies. For example, few of the nurseries visited actually collect roof water, often because they only have limited space on site for winter storage reservoirs.
The consultants recommended that financial incentives be provided to encourage water collection, recycling and improvements to irrigation efficiency. They pointed out that many nurseries use overhead sprinkler irrigation, which is inefficient and can produce plants of variable quality.
- Project findings can be viewed at www.seeda.co.uk. These findings will also form the content for the environmental workshop session at Contact 09 (see news story below).