East Anglia: CLA gives cautious welcome to University of Cambridge report on reservoir collaboration
06:00 11 June 2014
Strategies proposed in a University of Cambridge report for greater collaboration in the management of water resources will need to be refined if their are to become a viable proposition for farmers, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has warned.
The report, entitled “Sink or Swim”, is the result of work involving nine businesses 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.
The report, published earlier this month, 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.
“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 and preserve, or even add value, to your farm or estate,” said CLA eastern region director Nicola Currie.
“Therefore reservoirs are an attractive option for farmers and can be an essential part of their toolkit for securing water. From an ecosystem services perspective, they also provide storage in times of flooding.
“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.”
Mrs Currie added that 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.