Anglian Water works with farmers to tackle slug pesticide levels in reservoirs

Clouds over Ardleigh reservoir

Clouds over Ardleigh reservoir - Credit:

Anglian Water has launched a new campaign to help farmers reduce the amount of pesticides which end up in the region’s reservoirs.

Anglian Water has unveiled plans for a new campsite at Alton Water near Ipswich.

Anglian Water has unveiled plans for a new campsite at Alton Water near Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

The Slug it Out campaign aims to reduce the levels of metaldehyde in rivers and reservoirs. The chemical is used to control slugs, and stop them damaging crops. Although harmless to humans, the chemical is very difficult to remove at water treatment works. Meeting tough European Union targets on it is a real challenge for the region, the company says.

As part of the campaign, the company is carrying out a trial project around six key reservoirs helping farmers to move away from metaldehyde and use an alternative chemical instead. Farmers will receive payments to cover their costs and for taking part.

Anglian Water’s new team of five catchment advisers will also be talking to farmers and agronomists about all the ways they can help cut the amount of metaldehyde which finds its way into rivers and reservoirs.

Lucinda Gilfoyle, who is heading the campaign, said: “This is a whole new way of working for Anglian Water, so it’s very exciting for us. Our aim is to work in partnership with the farming community to improve the region’s water quality.

“Anglian Water spends large amounts of money removing pesticides from drinking water – this raises customers’ bills and wastes energy. However, the one pesticide we cannot remove is metaldehyde. This is why we are embarking on a proactive, responsible catchment management approach which will benefit customers, farmers and our environment.

“Even tiny amounts of metaldehyde in our waters will break European rules and in the long term this will be bad news for farmers and consumers. It could mean new regulation being forced on to farmers, and the UK receiving large fines from Europe.

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“We have gathered a great team of experienced advisers and they will be talking to all the farmers in the target areas over the coming days and weeks. We will be watching the results of this trial closely to plan the way forward.”

Farmers eligible to take part in the trial project have land within the natural catchments of six reservoirs – Alton Water in Suffolk, Ardleigh Reservoir near Colchester, Hollowell Reservoir, Ravensthorpe Reservoir and Pitsford Water in Northamptonshire and Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire.

The regulatory maximum level of metaldehyde allowed under the EU’s Water Framework Directive is 0.1 micrograms per litre (or parts per billion) in treated water. This is the same as one drop in an Olympic sized swimming pool. Levels in reservoirs in our region regularly exceed this, but removing it is not currently possible, says Anglian Water.

Slugs are one of the most devastating pests faced by UK farmers - without effective control large amounts of wheat and oilseed rape would be severely damaged. Metaldehyde is currently the most popular way of dealing with slugs, but there are other effective methods including the alternative chemical ferric phosphate.