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World Water Day 2022 Blog

Water is a vital resource for the agriculture sector, we cannot produce food without a consistent and plentiful water supply. While we may think there is no shortage of rain in Scotland, we can be vulnerable to periods of dry weather, and this can put pressure on farm businesses. Tuesday 22 March is World Water Day and this year we are encouraging people to think about their water use on farm and plan ahead for the coming summer season, where the chance of prolonged dry periods is greatest. This will ensure that businesses remain resilient at all times of the year.

The first thing to do is plan, monitor, and record the business’s water use. Regular monitoring will enable you to quickly spot if something is not right and react – for example, a leaky pipe, which can lose a significant amount of water and money if left unrepaired. This will also enable you to have a baseline and can be useful to assess the effectiveness of any efficiency measures you put in place. Once you have done this you will be able to identify actions to reduce the water consumed, or reuse water. There are many options for water reduction and reuse, for example, having extra capacity to harvest rainwater during periods of heavy rainfall will reduce the pressure when water is in short supply.

For irrigators, consider forming an abstraction group with other irrigators in your local area to share best practice and knowledge, and stagger abstractions accordingly to reduce pressure on the water source. You should also optimise use of irrigation water by monitoring weather forecasts, soil moisture details and crop growth stage by using irrigation scheduling techniques. It is important to always follow conditions in your abstraction permit.

Dry weather can also have an impact on grass growth which can put pressure on feed for cattle during the summer months. Preparing a feed budget can allow you to mitigate potential disruption and source supplementary feed if there is not enough grass to meet stock requirements. It is also important animals have access to clean drinking water, with dairy cows needing around 150 litres of water a day. Adding extra water troughs around the farm now will allow livestock to access water easier and reduce the chances of dehydration.

Some of the water efficiency options set out will require some investment, but there may be funding available. The current agri-environment climate scheme round has an option for water-use efficiency1 . NFUS is working with SEPA, Farming and Water Scotland, and others to emphasise the importance of water efficiency measures to the farming community. Thinking ahead builds business resilience, ensures your business does not face disruption during prolonged dry conditions, and can also save you money. Further information on water efficiency measures can be found on the Farm Advisory Service, NetRegs, and Farming & Water Scotland websites. SEPA also publishes a water scarcity situation report, which is published weekly during the summer season.

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1   https://www.ruralpayments.org/topics/all-schemes/agri-environment-climate-scheme/management-options-and-capital-items/water-use-efficiency---irrigation-lagoon/

Author: Sarah Cowie

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About The Author

Sarah Cowie

Sarah Cowie graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2012 and started her career at Scottish Enterprise, where she held roles in renewable energy and IP development. Following this she joined political monitoring company Newsdirect, where she was responsible for a wide range of clients in the environmental and agricultural sector. She joined NFU Scotland in 2021 as environmental resources policy manager and is responsible for the implementation and content of environmental regulation and legislation including Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, pollution prevention and control, waste, flooding, air quality and biodiversity.

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