Wessex Water have been operating a Phosphorus (P) offsetting initiative since 2022 which forms part of a wider programme of water company investment where P removal is being installed at water recycling centres (sewage treatment works) across the catchment. In rural catchments, wastewater treatment is only one source of P to the river, with agriculture being the other main contributor. By working with farmers to reduce P loadings from agriculture, the overall improvement in river water quality will be greater than if only P loadings from wastewater treatment are reduced.

FWAG SW advisers are working with Wessex Water and farmers in sub-catchments of the Rivers Tone, Parrett and Yeo to reduce P runoff from farmyards, tracks and fields by three tonnes per year by 2025.  The grant scheme offers generous financial support and advice to farmers for adopting certain land management practices, preventing soil erosion and for newly buffered watercourses. Double-funding with other Government or private sector land-management schemes (e.g. Countryside Stewardship Mid-tier, nutrient neutrality, Biodiversity Net Gain and Sustainable Farming Incentive) is not permitted and there are annual funding limits per farm business for some of the measures.

The funding on offer includes:

•    Cover crops after combinable crops
•    Cover crops after maize and other late-harvested crops
•    Undersowing grass into maize
•    Arable reversion to zero-input grass
•    Arable reversion to low/medium input grass
•    Arable reversion to herbal ley
•    Arable reversion to fertility building legume fallow
•    Establish new watercourse buffer strips on arable land
•    Watercourse fencing to exclude livestock
•    Grassland subsoiling to loosen compacted soil
•    Resurfacing sections of farm tracks and cross drains
•    Yard drains and curb stone aprons
•    New covered manure stores to replace existing field heaps
•    Rainwater gutters and downpipes
•    Cross-slope hedgerow creation
•    Riparian tree planting
•    Wetland features including creation or restoration of ponds, swales, in- field bunds, in-ditch features, sediment traps and constructed wetlands

Expressions of interest are invited for funding for infrastructure options including: 

•    New covered farmyard manure stores
•    New or replacement guttering and downpipes on farm buildings
•    Installation of cross drains on farm tracks

Applications will be scored, and funding awarded on a range of criteria including the predicted amount of phosphorus prevented from entering watercourses by implementation of the measure (per application and per unit area/metre), likelihood of the applicant meeting scheme requirements (as set out on the project website) and the location of the measure in relation to specific Wessex water recycling centres in the scheme area.

For more information, including zoomable maps of eligible areas, terms, conditions, payment rates and how to apply: click here or you can call the FWAG SW office to speak to an adviser on 01823 660684 or email Wessex Water directly at [email protected]