Anthony Gibson, the Chair of the Somerset Catchment Partnership (SCP), had a meeting yesterday (Tuesday 21st January 2020) with Rebecca Pow, Defra Parliamentary Secretary, to discuss what the Government can do to help the SCP do more to improve the water quality and biodiversity of Somerset’s rivers in the face of ever greater challenges.

Mr Gibson explained that this autumn has seen unprecedented levels of run-off from the upper catchment, which has had serious consequences for water quality in virtually every river in the county, as well as representing a completely unsustainable loss of one of our most precious natural resources; soil.

He called for tougher enforcement action by the Environment Agency to tackle the most persistent offenders, coupled with a modest but very necessary increase in resources and status for the Catchment Partnership to enable it to do more to encourage best practice and target particular problem areas.

More readily available and up-to-date data on water quality and other key indicators was also needed to enable the SCP to prioritise its work to improve Somerset’s water environment.

Where grant funding was available, the SCP would be happy to provide a bureaucracy-light channel for getting it to where it can do most good.

The Minister said that she very much shared concerns over soil loss and water quality, and strongly supported the ‘Catchment-based approach’ (CaBA).  She emphasised that catchment sensitive farming techniques would be incentivised under the Government’s forthcoming Environmental Land Management (ELMs) scheme.  In the meantime, she and her officials would reflect on the discussion and respond in due course.

You can learn more about the Somerset Catchment Partnership by clicking here.

Soil erosion after maize harvesting during a wet winter, soil and nutrients then washed into river.