Water supply faces pressure

Climate change, increasing populations and demand for food will put critical pressure on water supplies in the Vale of Evesham, a Farming Futures event has heard.

The irrigation event brought growers together to discuss how to maintain profitability as climate change affects water availability.

Delegates were warned that the Vale of Evesham is considered a "critical agro-climatic zone" as increasing demand and climate change put more pressure on water supplies.

All 60 growers at the event said they were concerned about future water availability and 88 per cent said they were concerned or very concerned about the impacts of climate change on food production.

Cranfield University research fellow Jerry Know told delegates that demand for irrigated crops could increase by 13-20 per cent by 2020 and by 25-50 per cent by 2050.

He added that, by the 2020s, the irrigation needs of the Vale of Evesham would be comparable to those in the East of England.

The event was run by Farming Futures and supported by the Environment Agency and the UK Irrigation Association.

Farming Futures project officer Madeleine Lewis said: "According to our Farming Futures survey this year, 50 per cent of farmers and growers said they could see climate change affecting their land now and 63 per cent said they expected it to have an effect in the next 10 years.

"Growers need to be smart about water resources. By increasing efficiency and using new technologies, they can strengthen their business in this changing climate."

Delegates heard from Advantage West Midlands rural policy manager Jamie Inglis about funding opportunities available through the Rural Development Programme for England. Lewis also described the growing trend for water abstractor groups (WAGs) in eastern England.

She said forming WAGs would allow growers to benefit from pooling resources and knowledge. Splitting consultancy fees and operating on a bigger scale by building bigger reservoirs could help save money, she suggested.

For more information, see www.farmingfutures.co.uk.

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