UK Water Partnership’s Food, farming and water event highlights need for a collaborative approach

workshop expectationsA lively video featuring a Suffolk farmer experiencing water stress , Sainsbury’s Director of Brand Judith Batchelar discussing water usage in Kenyan bean production, and a catchment liaison officer from Scottish Water working with farmers on water quality issues, kicked off the highly successful UK Water Partnership’s ‘Sustainable Food, Farming and Water’ workshop on 10 March 2016.

A diverse audience of around 120 people from industry, government, civil society organisations and the research community attended this NERC-sponsored event, which explored recommendations made by Global Food Security champion Professor Tim Benton’s-led UKWP reports on water and farming.
Keynote speaker Sarah Hendry, Director of Floods & Water, Defra, said:

‘It was a really invigorating event: lots of people pooling their insights and perspectives on the relationship between food and farming and water.  I was particularly inspired by the practical examples of projects that are finding inventive ways to make water use and management more sustainable.  The workshop was a great example of how the UK Water Partnership can add value by bringing people together to drive innovation, with benefits for the environment and the economy.’

Five break-out sessions explored the following goals: improved water security through better planning and practical action; improved integrated modelling; enhanced agri-water knowledge exchange; empowering farmers, and increased water resilience in the global supply chain.

Melvyn Kay, Executive Secretary, UK Irrigation Association Ltd., said:

‘The workshop was informative, enjoyable and great for networking. One take home message was the need for better translation and communication if water utilities are to talk to farmers more: for example utilities talk in ‘megalitres’ whereas farmers use ‘gallons’.

Paul Hammett, NFU national water resources specialist, said:

‘I welcomed recognition that we need to improve farm profitability as well as farm productivity; we need to find a way to allocate a fair share of water to farmers so they can invest with confidence in growing the food we expect them to deliver.’

Tony Rachwal, Director of the UK Water Partnership said:

‘This event was very successful in bringing together the key players involved in food, water and farming. What struck me was the collaborative approach needed between farmers and the water sector to tackle these issues, such as to address flood alleviation and storage of water to prepare for future droughts and how to actively manage underground aquifers to store and recover water under farmland in the South and East of the UK. The UK Water Partnership’s Water and Agriculture action group will catalyse action on some of these identified needs in the coming year.’

The video of the event is available here and pdfs of the presentations here. A final event report is available here.

 

For further information about the event and the Partnership’s Water and Farming action group, please contact:

Dr Weihao Zhong

Secretariat, Research & Innovation Group, The UK Water Partnership

Natural Envrionment Research Council

Email: weizho(at)nerc.ac.uk