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Phase 2 of the Demonstration test catchment Project - LM0304

The Demonstration Test Catchments platform was conceived as a 5-10 year set of linked research activities to address the significant gap in evidence on the development of catchment-based approaches to tackle water pollution from agriculture, testing combinations of on-farm mitigation measures over large spatial scales. The projects support policy development and delivery on agri-environment schemes and the Water Framework Directive. DTC will support policy development in SLS and WQ by:
- Informing the design of land management interventions that can be incorporated into agri-environment schemes. For example, pond and wetland creation, buffering features, riverbank fencing etc.
- Providing study areas and farmer groups to monitor and evaluate policy e.g.:
- The impacts of greening on farms and the environment (e.g. using farmer focus groups) and the effectiveness of agri-environment targeting and scoring
- Water Framework Directive
- Providing support on the catchment based approach
- Soil policy – linking soil state to environmental outcomes, supporting the development of verifiable standards for soil management
- Developing targeting approaches to optimally place land management options to achieve catchment-scale water quality improvements for agri-environment schemes and other policy interventions.
- Investigating the effectiveness of soil management options such as minimum tillage and cover crops at large spatial scales.
- Supporting CSF and agri-environment delivery
- Ground-truthing for the various models and decision support tools used to assess agri-environment policy scenarios.
- Undertaking social science on farmers’ attitudes to environmental protection and socio-economic barriers to uptake.
- Developing approaches to work with farmers and other stakeholders to target mitigation measures within a catchment. DTC provides a set of case-studies on landscape-scale environmental governance
- Hosting R&D and demonstration activities from other funders, providing a way of influencing e.g. research council funded work.

DTC will also provide responsive policy support by bringing together leading experts on water, soil, social science and land management. Phase 2 factors in time for them to provide rapid call-off policy support on soil, water and the environmental management of agricultural land.

Phase 1 of DTC (2009-2014) consisted of three core projects that form DTC (WQ0210, WQ0211 and WQ0212 – together an investment of £6.5M) as a collaboration between Defra, the Environment Agency and the Welsh Government. These have been undertaking the monitoring, social science and conceptual modelling that underpin DTC as a platform for research. A number of additional projects funded by Defra, the Environment Agency, NERC, ESRC and the water industry have been subsequently added to the platform, increasing the research investment within the DTC catchments to approximately £17M.

The three core phase 1 projects finished in March 2014. The activities that they initiated need to be continued until at least 2017 to support ongoing research (including Defra project WQ0225, which is investigating combinations of mitigation measures within the DTC catchments, and a number of other projects funded by Defra, the research councils and others). The activities that need to be maintained through phase 2 (this project) are as follows:
• Maintaining experimental water quality and ecology monitoring networks in four river catchments (Eden, Cumbria; Wensum, Norfolk; Avon, Hampshire; and Tamar, Cornwall/Devon).
• Data curation and analysis
• Maintaining local stakeholder networks within the catchments
• Maintaining working relationships with participating farmers and acting as a gatekeeper to research sites for other projects
• A follow-on survey of farm management practices and ongoing collection of agricultural data.
• Hypothesis testing and developing improved conceptual and numerical models of how catchments respond to agricultural pollution and measures to

This ongoing investment will continue to support:
• A network of the leading UK catchment science researchers from the c.45 organisations that are working together through DTC
• A network of catchment science research sites, which are used more widely by Defra, the Environment Agency and Others.
• c.30 PhDs currently working on the platform.
• Helping to align c.£8M of research council and water company research with Defra’s objectives
• A research and learning platform that allows rapid knowledge exchange between researchers, policy-makers and delivery organisations thus maximizing the usefulness of the research.
• A strategic resource for a rapidly growing community of practitioners and stakeholders who require both evidence and guidance on the effectiveness of management options to combat pollution and exploiting opportunities for new research or the testing of mitigation options.
• Maintaining a clear and effective link between policy, science and environmental management at all levels from local to regional to national.
Work package 1 (WP1): Understanding the nature of the problem (catchment function and response)
1.1 Sources: Identification and quantification of agriculture pollution sources
a) What are the main agricultural sources that bring potential polluting substances into the catchments (nutrients, FIOs, sediment)?
1.2 Mobilisation: Identification of solubilisation, detachment and incidental mobilisation from the soil
a) How can we best assess the risk of solubilisation, detachment and incidental mobilisation from the soils in the DTCs?
b) Can we determine the conceptual basis upon which these are scaled up, to other catchments and soils?
1.3 Delivery: Pollutant transport pathways and transformations
a) What are the most important pathways of pollutant transfer from agricultural sources to water bodies and how can they be identified?
b) What is the effect of natural physical, chemical and biological processes on the timing or patterns of pollutant delivery to water bodies and the overall impact of diffuse pollution?
a) What are the main diffuse pollution risk factors and how do they vary spatially and temporally in terms of the likelihood of pollutant loss from farming?
b) How can the key pollution hot-spots (often called critical source areas (CSAs)) be identified within catchments and how are they spatially distributed?
1.4 Impacts: Water body (receptor) response and other socio-economic impacts
a) What is the contribution of different agricultural pollution sources on water quality in surface and subsurface water bodies?
b) What is the ecological response to such pollutant inputs in receiving surface water bodies? (this should take into account interactions with other factors, such as the morphology of the river channel)
c) How resilient are water quality and ecological response of water bodies to temporal variations in pollution losses (from storm-event to seasonal trends)?
d) What is the economic cost of diffuse agricultural pollution for individual water bodies in the sub-catchment?
1.5 Extrapolating to the wider catchment and nationally
a) How much diffuse agricultural pollution in the DTC headwater catchment impact the overall economic cost of not achieving good water body status at the river basin scale?
b) What is the economic cost of the transfer of pollutants from the DTC headwater catchments further down gradient?
c) What is the relevance of DTC findings to other catchments and how can they be applied?

Work Package 2 (WP2) - Planning and implementing mitigation interventions
2.1 Measure cost, design and maintenance
a) What is the lifespan of, and what are the maintenance requirements for, different mitigation measures?
b) What are the direct and indirect costs of measures, including implementation, maintenance, impact on productivity/ profitability and savings due to more effective resource management, and to whom do these costs fall?
2.2 Environmental outcomes of mitigation
a) How can you extrapolate mitigation efficacy from a single measure to a series of interconnected measures?
b) How much of an improvement in terms of receptors can we attain by implementing mitigation?
c) To what extent does targeting only part of the anthropogenic pressures on water bodies allow us to achieve significant improvement in status?
d) How long will it take for mitigation interventions to: (i) meet a set pollutant threshold (WFD related targets) at a given point in a catchment and (ii) achieve an ecological response?
2.3 Cost-effectiveness of mitigation measures
a) What is the benefit:cost ratio for the various measures applied in the DTC catchments? (This should account for all downstream benefits of improved water quality from improvements in the DTC headwater study areas)
b) What is the comparative cost-effectiveness of implementing measures on a targeted basis compared with blanket implementation? (i.e. how does the benefit:cost ratio vary spatially for different measures?)
c) What is the scale of land use and land management change that is needed to achieve EU-WFD targets of good water body status at the DTC catchment scale?
d) How might such improvements contribute to achieving good water body status and reduce environmental damage costs at the river basin scale?
2.4 Designing an agricultural pollution mitigation strategy at the catchment scale
a) What are the logical steps to identify pressures and plan a programme of measures within a catchment? (Developing a treatment-train approach)
b) How can you determine the level of measure coverage needed to achieve EU-WFD objectives in different catchments?
c) How can you optimize cost-effectiveness when implementing measures (i) at the catchment scale, (ii) at the river basin scale and (iii) nationally?

Work Package 3 (WP3) - Working with Stakeholders and Influencing Behaviour Change
3.1 Current Practices
a) What is the current baseline level of practice in terms of diffuse pollution mitigation
3.2 Behaviour/Attitudes, Support and Collaboration
b) What are farmers’ current attitudes towards diffuse pollution measures and how likely are they to adopt them?
c) Which factors motivate farmers to adopt measures and what are the main things likely to put them off?
d) What are the practical constraints to implementing measures within the context of a farm business?
e) What consequences such patterns have for policy levers?
a) What level of technical support do land managers require to adopt measures?
b) What level of financial support do farmers need to implement different types of measure?
c) Which policy interventions are best adapted to encourage the uptake of different types of measures?
d) How can farmers be encouraged to collaborate to implement measures strategically at a catchment or sub-catchment scale?
3.3 Developing catchment scale stakeholder groups
a) What governance arrangements are needed to implement a catchment-based approach?

Work package 4 (WP4): Developing improved monitoring and research techniques to inform, monitor and evaluate policy and extend DTC outcomes to other catchments
4.1 Improving focus and approaches to monitor and quantify agricultural diffuse pollution and impact on water bodies
a) What best knowledge exchange frameworks and models allow for ensuring research answers policy and other catchment manager key needs?
b) Which are the most cost-effective monitoring technologies and investigative techniques for (i) identifying pressures in a catchment, (ii) undertaking source apportionment, and (iii) detecting the effects of pollution mitigation?
c) How can monitoring be optimally deployed, and what is the minimum amount of data needed to detect a reduction in diffuse pollution and an ecological response at given spatial and temporal resolutions?
d) How can monitoring and modelling tools be practically used in combination to build ‘weight of evidence’ to inform catchment management?
4.2 Developing approaches to up-scale and extrapolate DTC outputs
a) How can results of plot-scale research be reliably up-scaled and applied to inform decision making in heterogeneous landscapes?
b) How can we infer impact of processes monitored in headwater catchments to those occurring downstream (i.e. integrating mid-catchment and lowland areas)?
c) How can we translate outputs of catchment-specific studies to other catchments nationally?
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2015

To: 2018

Cost: £2,062,454
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University of East Anglia (UEA), Rothamsted Research (BBSRC), Lancaster University
Agriculture and Water Quality              
Arable Farming              
Environmental Protection              
Environmental Stewardship              
Hill Farming              
Livestock Farming              
Natural Environment              
Resource Protection              
River Catchments              
Social Research              
Waste Management              
Water Framework Directive              
Water Quality