Report Synopsis

Sustainable Water Use: Opportunities for Agriculture Based on Cross Disciplinary Knowledge Sharing

The agricultural, horticultural, amenity and landscape sectors all require water. However, the UK’s water resources are becoming increasingly stretched, especially in the South and East of the country. UK water security is now a real concern. Water security is a key challenge for any country and is defined as the ability to provide a resilient water supply for all users in the long term. Other countries such as US, Australia, Israel, Spain and Singapore are more experienced than the UK at dealing with water shortages and have developed multiple solutions to become water secure.

The main aim of my study tour was to visit countries which have already experienced significant water stress, and therefore have been forced to develop solutions to the problem.

Alternative water security solutions observed on my travels included use of treated wastewater either directly or to recharge ground aquifers; large scale rainwater harvesting; use of satellite and sensors to inform irrigation regimes; water efficient irrigation such as sub-surface drip; crop breeding to improve water efficiency; desalinated water; supply chain water resilience management; and holistic landscape level soil management.

All these solutions have multiple barriers preventing their uptake in the UK. These are universal with other countries and industries. These include financial risk of investment; stakeholder resistance to change; lack of industry knowledge on alternative technology; regulation restricting innovation; challenges of inter-disciplinary working; and a low support for long-term planning.

However, I observed many examples of stakeholders overcoming these barriers to implement water resilient projects. Prevailing patterns among these success stories include stakeholders driving projects forward; support and long-term planning from government; inter-disciplinary working; and local ownership of problems.

Given the complexity of the issue, addressing the issue of water security in the UK demands a multifaceted approach. None of these solutions will be straightforward to implement and will necessitate significant shifts in our perspectives and long-term strategies for the management of water resources.

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