CLA backs cross-sector reservoir plans that seek to safeguard water security

06 June 2014

The CLA has backed a University of Cambridge report calling for greater collaboration to better manage water resources, but says its proposed strategies need to be refined so they become viable propositions for farmers.

The Sink or Swim report is the result of work between nine companies across six sectors – water companies, agriculture, financial institutions, retailers, real estate, and engineering – that examined ways of financing reservoirs to ensure sufficient availability of water.

Published on 3 June, the report presents four financial models offering options for cross-sector collaboration on the financing of reservoirs, encouraging joint investment by a variety of stakeholders, including water companies, retailers, and farmers.

CLA Midlands Rural Adviser Donna Tavernor said: “This report is particularly welcome as CLA has been raising the issue of new reservoirs for over 10 years and lobbying to overcome the barriers that have deterred many on-farm schemes.

“With growing water security problems brought about by climate change and population growth, building a reservoir can ensure crops are irrigated throughout the worst droughts. Increasingly important is their ability to provide storage in times of flooding.

“In March, when we held water abstraction meetings across the region, members were particularly interested in building reservoirs to give their business resilience. Hopefully this report will help on all fronts.”

CLA’s Chief Land Use Policy Adviser Damian Testa added: “Reservoirs are an attractive option for farmers and can be an essential part of their toolkit for securing water. The report puts forward interesting ideas on how farmers can become investors in infrastructure, allowing them to own a share in a reservoir they might have otherwise struggled to have financed.

“However, what happens if there is an exceptionally dry summer? If a water company is the majority investor in a reservoir, who decides when each investor can take water and when? Farmers are likely to lose out in this situation.

“Governance issues need to be addressed with further thought given to the market practicalities of these models so farmers view them as viable propositions.”

Mr Testa also said any jointly financed reservoirs would need to have the capacity to cope with the demands of multiple investors and two or three consecutive dry years, rather than being built, as most farm reservoirs are, to cope with a single dry season.

The full University of Cambridge report can be downloaded from: http://www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/natcap