Catchment Management

Metaldehyde action project

“Catchment area” is a term which describes the area around a water source, where rainfall naturally collects and feeds into the source.  Catchment areas vary in size from a few square kilometres for small springs, to thousands of square kilometres for the River Severn, our largest single source of water.  The way that land is managed in the catchment area can have an enormous effect on the quality of the water which it provides, although water quality problems do not normally occur because the landowner has been irresponsible – they tend to happen as a result of a combination of factors, leading to a phenomenon known as “diffuse pollution”.  This often comes from road and agricultural runoff, which can be from individual farms and even from individual fields.

Addressing the problem of diffuse pollution involves working with all the landholders in the area to identify where the problems originate and how they can be resolved.  Over the last two years we have begun working in more detail on catchment management with a number of organisations, notably Natural England, the Environment Agency, the National Farmer’s Union and the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group.  Following the  success of these initial projects we plan to increase our work on catchment management.

We believe that catchment management is good environmental management.  If we can identify problems before they occur, we may avoid the need for new energy-intensive water treatment techniques and reduce the amount of chemicals required for water treatment, as well as improving the overall environmental quality of our water sources.

Mendip Lakes Partnership

Bristol Water in partnership with Catchment Sensitive Farming, Avon Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the Environment Agency, is working with farmers across the Blagdon and Chew Reservoir catchments to improve water quality and enhance habitats. The Partnership provides free specialist advice on soils, nutrients and business management – and support on the new Countryside Stewardship schemes. It’s often less expensive to tackle diffuse pollution problems “at source,” so we may also be able to offer financial support for land management changes or farm improvements that give cost-effective improvements in water quality. As part of the project, Bristol Water is undertaking an extensive water quality monitoring programme so that we can understand risk areas and identify improvements over time.

Through the project, farmers can access:
• FREE soil analysis and management advice
• FREE manure and slurry nutrient value analysis
• FREE NVZ compliance checks
• FREE Nutrient Management Planning by FACTS qualified advisor
• FREE Countryside Stewardship and Catchment Sensitive Farming grant application advice
• FREE Infrastructure and Water Management audits

Countryside Stewardship Scheme

The recently launched DEFRA Countryside Stewardship Scheme is designed to replace the previous Entry Level (ELS) and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Schemes. The new Mid-tier scheme is competitive and targeted towards addressing local water quality and biodiversity issues. The new Higher Tier scheme is targeted toward the most environmentally significant sites like SSSIs, which need complex management . For those farmers with expired or expiring ELS and HLS agreements the new scheme will be open for applications from 1st July 2016. The Mendip Lakes Partnership can provide FREE advice on how to prepare an application and the type of management measures that would need to be adopted.

For more information about the Mendip Lakes Partnership project, contact matthew.pitts@bristolwater.co.uk, or call 07500 917629.

Environmental Investigations

Water Framework Directive Hydroecology Investigations

Under the Environment Agency’s National Environment Programme, Bristol Water is investigating how downstream river ecology is affected by Blagdon and Chew Valley Reservoirs.  Reservoirs by their nature impound water and can therefore directly affect downstream river flows, in terms of flow magnitude, timing and rate of flow changes, seasonality of flows and flow variability.  Reservoirs can also affect downstream water quality, temperature, sediments, and the movement of migratory fish such as eels.

We are firstly assessing if and to what extent the reservoirs do cause impacts.  We will then undertake an options appraisal and options trials to understand what we can do to reduce or mitigate impacts.  This work is being undertaken in consultation with the Environment Agency.

Congresbury Yeo Water Quality Investigation

We are collaborating in an investigation into the influences on water quality in the Congresbury Yeo downstream of Blagdon Reservoir.  This work has been initiated and is being co-funded by Bristol Water, Wessex Water, the Environment Agency and Yeo Valley Farms, and aims to understand the relative pressures on the river reach and the interventions required to achieve Good Ecological Potential under the Water Framework Directive.

Barrow Reservoir No. 3 Water Quality Investigation

Barrow Reservoir No. 3 is identified as a lake under the Water Framework Directive (WFD), and is specifically designated as a heavily modified water body. According to the Environment Agency’s assessment the status of the water body is assessed at ‘Moderate’ overall due to elevated concentrations of phosphorus and frequencies of phytoplankton blooms.

We are investigating current and historical phosphorus concentrations in the reservoir, to identify sources and their relative contributions in terms of phosphorus loads to the reservoir. We will then review feasible options to reduce phosphorus concentrations in the reservoir taking into account operation constraints, and provide recommendations based on this review and a high level cost benefit analysis. The investigation will be completed to align with regulatory date set for the relevant NEP driver WFD2i, 30th September 2017.

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