The NFU has launched a new ‘Water Bank’ service to help match farmers and growers who urgently need water with neighbouring farm businesses who have a surplus.
The Environment Agency has agreed to consider and approve wherever possible fast-track, short-term trades of water to help farmers cope with pressures on food production caused by the unprecedented spell of hot, dry weather.
Water trading will be localised, with donors and recipients needing to operate within the same hydrological unit – meaning the same river or groundwater aquifer.
The NFU said in most cases, only volumes of water that the donor has historically used will be permitted for trading, and so the most realistically achievable trades will be in cases where the donor is not currently using water that he or she would otherwise need.
Many trades will be conducted between neighbouring farms and potential donors and recipients can match up with each other using this water bank service.
The NFU said it “strongly recommends” donors and recipients join up with an agreed proposal before seeking Environment Agency approval to help the agency to “make rapid decisions” on the trading proposals it receives.
NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said: “The launch of the NFU Water Bank as a web-based noticeboard could be of considerable help to some of our members who are quickly running out of water for fruit and vegetable production as they use up their annual abstraction volumes. Livestock who rely on drinking water from abstracted sources are also at risk.
“We will keep looking for solutions that help alleviate the pressures that are building on the farming industry caused by this agricultural drought. It really is a timely reminder that we shouldn’t take food production for granted in this country.”