Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Water, water everywhere but Ministers urged to think!

England’s water resources under pressure? Seems hard to swallow as we’ve been basking in what appears to be the summer’s never-ending monsoon season.

Ministers must, however, take urgent action as these water resources come under increasing pressure from potential unsustainable-abstraction, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has warned.

Launching the committee’s report on The Water White Paper  report, Anne McIntosh MP (Con, Thirsk & Malton), EFRA Committee chairman, said the Government’s current plans - to reform the abstraction regime by the mid-to-late 2020s - will not take effect rapidly enough given that rivers are already running dry. She called for t reform of abstraction licenses to be brought forward to protect against the effect of severe droughts such as the one we saw earlier this year.

But what of agriculture and water use? The committee praised the acknowledgment of the importance of ensuring that the agricultural sector retains access to a reliable water supply. As the reforms go through, it recommended that the Environment Agency ‘maintains a constructive dialogue with farmers and food producers, recognising their key role in promoting self-sufficiency and food security’.

EBLEX has taken a proactive role in improving the sustainability of the English beef and sheep industry with the publication of its environmental roadmaps. Roadmap Part 2 'Testing the Water' quantifies where we are in terms of performance on water use and contribution to the landscape and biodiversity, and on energy use in the processing sector.

England is one of the most efficient places to produce quality beef and lamb, supported by the evidence published in Roadmap Part 2 'Testing the Water'. The report revealed it takes 67 litres of water, that could reasonably be used for other purposes, to produce 1kg of beef and 49 litres to produce 1kg of sheep meat.  This is significantly less than in other parts of the world.

Of course making better use of available water resources is an important ongoing issue. EBLEX is, however, taking a lead, examining what the industry is doing well and where improvements to efficiency on water use can be made. We will continue to monitor developments in this area.