A Contribution of Josh Gill, CEO & Founder of Everflow
The UK is heating up. By 0.9 degrees to be precise. While that might not sound like a lot, for finely balanced eco-systems, it’s a significant rise. Agriculture is one of the key industries on the frontline of the fight against global warming.
This year, the problems it causes for farmers, in particular in terms of water scarcity, could be especially pronounced, with James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, predicting “at least four or five major heatwaves.”
This will put added pressure on Britain’s farmers who are already feeling the strain. Not only are the agriculture and food production sectors among the sectors with the highest water consumption but many regions also lack sufficient natural rainfall to deliver a crop that meets standards.
Farmers therefore typically need supplementary irrigation. And yet, they are under intense scrutiny from the UK government over their water usage after targets were introduced to decrease non-household water (NHH) demand.
However, it is in the interests of both consumers and the government for our farmers to thrive. Consumers for food production; government for economic success, as the agricultural sector accounts for 8% of the economy.
So how can farmers deliver a radical transformation in water efficiency standards and how can government and businesses support them in sourcing a reliable supply of high-quality, affordable water?
How farmers can tackle water scarcity
Farmers are often well versed in the challenges of managing water supply in times of drought. However, as supply dries up and costs rise, innovation will be key. That’s where technology comes in.
New water efficiency technology such as precision irrigation systems could create both water and financial savings for farmers in the long run – worth the investment. Drip irrigation systems, for example, use a low-pressure system to distribute a steady drip of water through tiny pipes across farmlands directly to the root. This method reduces evaporation compared to standard spray systems and can be scheduled for cooler weather to minimise further losses – up to 80% less than traditional irrigation systems – while also improving root development, benefitting crop yields.
Innovation doesn’t simply extend to water distribution, but also to water capture and storage. Water recycling systems including fitting water butts to drainpipes will ensure rainwater is collected more efficiently, reducing demand on the business’s main water supply and making cost savings as well.
The importance of government intervention
A comprehensive national strategy and regulatory support can protect the farming industry from water scarcity and price rises. A long-term government strategy can provide farmers with the reassurance needed to invest in irrigation systems. Deploying more smart meters to farmers will help them better measure their water consumption, ensure saving opportunities can be identified and help government plan based on accurate data. For this, it requires education and proper funding from the government. If successful, the result can be better planning, increased water and financial savings and a more climate change-proof sector.
How the water industry can provide greater support
The water industry can also help by providing expertise and guidance. At Everflow for example, we provide advice on rainwater harvesting systems for NHH customers and recently launched the UK’s first free business Water Efficiency certification scheme. The programme provides NHH customers with a personalised report showing fully costed and personalised water efficiency recommendations, with the potential to save up to 70% on water bills and improving water efficiency.
Improving the drought resilience of the agriculture and farming sector is a question of national food security – which is under even greater threat now following the Ukraine war. For the UK to be more self-sufficient in its food production, farmers, government and businesses in the industry need to work collaboratively to prioritise improving water efficiency, creating savings for farmers and protecting the agriculture sector from climate change.