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Opportunities for reducing water use in agriculture - WU0101

Several factors are putting pressure on the availability of water for use in agriculture in England and Wales:

(i) there is increasing competition for water supplies from the domestic, industrial, and leisure sectors

(ii) there is a desire, and regulatory pressure from the EU Water Framework Directive, to maintain the ecological diversity of rivers and lakes by avoiding over-abstraction of water

(iii) global climate change models predict reduced summer rainfall and more frequent dry years.

Agriculture consumes a significant proportion of untreated water and the sustainable use of water for irrigation is an increasing problem for water management across the world. Low water use agriculture in the context of England and Wales is the focus of this study.

A parallel scoping study carried out by ADAS will identify baseline data on the amounts of water used in each agricultural sector, together with the regions where agricultural production is likely to be limited by water availability in the forseeable future. This desk study, carried out by W-HRI, will identify research opportunities that will facilitate reduced water inputs in these regions, and sustainable agricultural production into the future. The study will be wide ranging, considering all sectors of agriculture including arable and livestock farming, and horticulture. Processes to be considered will include plant breeding, irrigation, washing (e.g in both livestock and fruit and veg), water recycling and water storage. It is anticipated that irrigation, as the process that consumes a large volume of abstracted water, will be a major focus of the study. Measures to reduce water use will take into account potential impacts on product quality and food safety.

The study will review information from the scientific literature on current and emerging technologies that impact on water use, and will draw upon published case studies performed at the farm scale or in specific sectors. Additional knowledge in particular areas will be sought through consultation.

The report resulting from this study will assist Defra in defining future priorities for research funding in sustainable water use.
1. To identify geographical regions and agricultural sectors where research and knowledge transfer activities have the potential to lead to significant reductions in water use.

2. To review current and emerging technologies aimed at saving water in agriculture that are most relevant to the region x sector combinations identified in objective 1.

3. To review existing initiatives and case studies related to saving water in agriculture, with emphasis on the region x sector combinations identified in objective 1.

4. To identify and prioritise research areas by integrating information from objectives 1 to 3 and to seek consensus from an expert group.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Opportunities for reducing water use in agriculture   (151k)
• Final Report - Annex : Opportunities for reducing water use in agiculture - Appendix   (2405k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2006

To: 2006

Cost: £69,442
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Warwick - HRI
Allocated - WHRI              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Farming and Food Science              
Water Demand              
Water Quality and Use              
Water Resources              
Water Use              
Fields of Study
Water Quality