Metaldehyde reward scheme successfully improves water quality

A pioneering scheme aiming to minimise the risk of metaldehyde reaching watercourses, and therefore, reduce treatment costs, has seen over 89% of eligible farmers sign up.

Severn Trent’s annual Farm to Tap has successfully improved water quality, reducing treatment costs.

The scheme’s focus is to encourage farmers to adopt different methods of slug control to reduce levels of metaldehyde reaching watercourses, with an aim to minimise the need for treatments, and rewarding those that successfully meet the set criteria.

Metaldehyde is difficult and expensive to remove from water, but exceedances can be prevented. Higher levels of pollution in water lead to greater treatment costs, which could impact customer bills.

Severn Trent catchment management scientist Laura Flower said she was “delighted” with the farmer engagement levels seen in 2018.

Our collaboration with farmers has successfully prevented metaldehyde reaching water, so much so, that just one water treatment plant detected the active ingredient above drinking water standards.

“This meant we saved a considerable sum of money on water treatment, helping to avoid price rises for our customers,” she said.

“The single exceedance occurred following a sudden period of heavy rainfall. So, to help farmers in the area reduce the chances of this happening again, we’re investing in a farm weather station, to provide accurate predictions.

“The station will give localised reports for farms in the catchment and help to inform decisions on when to apply metaldehyde, depending on whether heavy rain is forecast.”

Severn Trent is in the process of rewarding farmers for last season’s efforts in reducing metaldehyde applications, now that the results have been fully collated.

“To help farmers with costs related to adopting new slug control methods, we’re paying those in successful catchments up to £8/ha – which totals nearly £400,000.

“This is a real testament to Severn Trent’s ongoing commitment to working with farmers to protect water and the environment,” added Laura.

While the total payment to farmers is significant, it’s considerably smaller than the cost of building a new facility to remove metaldehyde from water.

“For this reason, Severn Trent will be continuing with a revised Farm to Tap scheme for the 2019 season, even though this will be the last season of use before metaldehyde is due to be withdrawn from outdoor use in 2020.”

The 2019 programme is due to open soon.