Severn Trent Water commissioned ESI, now part of Stantec, to evaluate the effectiveness of their current catchment management programme, which aims (over 25 years) to improve the raw water quality at public drinking water supply sites so as to reduce Severn Trent Water’s treatment costs and provide wider environmental and recreational benefits.
During AMP5 Severn Trent Water Limited (STWL) successfully delivered one of the largest programmes of catchment management investigations in the UK water industry at a cost of £1.8M.
In AMP6 STWL increased activity to 27 full-scale catchment management schemes. This programme represented a substantial additional investment and was strongly supported by stakeholders. The focus of the programme included delivering metaldehyde product substitution schemes, a grant scheme for environmental improvement, and additional catchment based activities on the ground. The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has supported the metaldehyde programme.
As part of STWL’s PR19 work, the effectiveness of the AMP6 catchment management schemes need to be evaluated to see if:
ESI was instructed in November 2016 to analyse the available data (up to 1 December 2016), and to prepare an evaluation of the programme’s effectiveness focusing on the catchments to 22 drinking water sources – those with regulatory obligations (Environment Agency National Environment Programme and/or DWI Metaldehyde Undertaking).
This represented an ambitious programme, including both groundwater and surface water catchments across the whole of Severn Trent Water’s region (groundwater sources where nitrate is an issue are shown in the figure below).
Groundwater sources where nitrate is an issue
Flow of how engagement may influence change
The “change diagram” shows how engagement with farmers is anticipated to lead to changes in farm management, reduced concentrations of metaldehyde, pesticides and nitrates in rivers and groundwater and hence reduced treatment costs for Severn Trent Water and improved water quality for habitats and recreation sites.
20 months into the schemes, farmers on 30% of priority farms have been engaged by Severn Trent Water’s representatives in a positive way, and 80% of these (24% of the target farms) confirmed they have better knowledge of water quality issues in the catchment.
Severn Trent Water has also influenced many farms to change their farm operations for the benefit of water quality. For example, 20 months into the programme, 19% of metaldehyde target farms are participating in a metaldehyde reduction scheme and 7% of farms have taken up grants for infrastructure improvement, and for which farmers have contributed about 50% of the cost themselves.
Individual catchments were assessed against targets for farmer engagement, positive engagement and improved knowledge targets and then against changes in farm practice via farmers signing up for product (metaldehyde) substitution and Severn Trent Environmental Protection Scheme (STEPS) farm infrastructure grants – see example for the surface water catchment to the Staunton Harold reservoir (Melbourne, Leicestershire) below.
Other components of the scheme which indicate changes in behaviour include: farmers’ participation in pesticide amnesties, pesticide training and equipment testing.
Water quality data has been collated and reviewed. But, as anticipated, after only 20 months, there are insufficient data to make confident assertions about impacts on water quality.
“The reports were nicely structured and linked back to our original objectives – I liked the fact you converted the work into questions which were answered for each catchment.”
Dr. Katherine Filby, Catchment Management Planner, Severn Trent Water