NFU responds to WRE's long-term plan for water

01 March 2022

East Anglia East Midlands
An image of a water sprinkler in a field of crops

We responded to WRE (Water Resources East)'s draft plan to address long-term water supply pressures. This is one of five regional plans across England that was published in January 2022 as part of the government’s Water Resources Planning Framework.

The NFU responded to the initial draft of WRE (Water Resources East)’s plan in February 2022.

NFU members can log in to read our response in full here: NFU response to WRE Emerging Regional Plan February 2022

WRE Emerging Regional Plan proposals

WRE's Emerging Regional Plan for Eastern England seeks to address long-term water supply pressures in the region, which is characterised by its diversity of water use, including very significant non-public water supply users, particularly for agriculture, food production and energy.

The region is under pressure from population growth, climate change and the need to enhance the environment in some of the nation’s most iconic landscapes. 

It is said that more than 60% of England’s abstraction licences for irrigation are located in the East and farmers manage 75% of the land. Farming output supplies a food processing industry that is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector.

WRE states: 'Water is a regional challenge and one which will only be met through strong and enduring regional collaboration.'

You can read the WRE draft plan summary or the full WRE Emerging Water Resources Regional Plan for Eastern England document for more information.

NFU response to WRE draft plan

We support the principles in the WRE plan, which are consistent with those embedded in our Integrated Water Management Strategy. We welcome the potential opportunities that could be delivered by a multi-sector approach to water planning.

Our Integrated Water Management Strategy illustrates that pressures faced by farmers and growers in managing ‘too much’ and ‘not enough’ water are likely to become so great that they will not always be solved at the farm level.

Cooperation and collaboration

Cooperation and collaboration within the farming community, and with other sectors such as water companies, will be vital in our response to managing extremes.

We think that the development of the WRE plan is an important step forward which should create opportunities to promote multi-sector schemes where farmers, water companies, energy companies and others can share the benefits of new and improved facilities.

In our response on the draft plan, we have asked that the WRE Emerging Regional Plan looks to provide:

  • detailed understanding of the deficits that the agricultural sector faces across the East
  • a timeline for working with the agricultural sector to understand the options and how they support the short, medium and long term risks of water shortages
  • assurance that regulation will work alongside the proposed options to secure water resources for a sustainable future for agriculture
  • work at a sub-regional/catchment level to fully understand the implications of water resources within those catchments
  • fair access, for agri-food abstractors, to the available water resources
  • fully explored financial implications (capital and operational costs) of the options available to the agricultural sector and to explore funding opportunities.

Reservoirs

The WRE plan includes proposals for the construction of two reservoirs in the Fens, one in Lincolnshire and one in Cambridgeshire although siting for these has not been finalised.

We believe that all new public water supply infrastructure must be designed and built to deliver multi-sector benefit, including for agriculture. Agricultural water needs must be recognised as an explicit part of resource use plans.

We also believe that both the design and implementation during construction must be carried out in a way that minimises impact on land ownership and farming operations.

Read more about the NFU's position on reservoirs: NFU position on public reservoirs

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