Farmers could sell services to water firms to up quality and curb flooding

Environmental think tank Green Alliance, in partnership with National Trust, has scoped out a new model for mainstreaming Payments for Ecosystem Services in water. The idea is for a new payment mechanism, dubbed a Natural Infrastructure Scheme, though which farmers and land managers could sell services to improve water quality and reduce flooding to buyers – namely water companies, other infrastructure operators and public authorities.

The premise is that buyers would be able to save money by avoiding costs – for instance to pay for water treatment works, flood defence and remedial actions after floods – while at the same time funding new income streams for farmers and landowners. The mechanism features a catchment wide consortium of sellers trading with a consortium of buyers via brokered contract.

Additional services relating to things like biodiversity, wildlife, green space and amenities could be sold on top to a wider pool of buyers including local people, tourism industry players, public health authorities and businesses.

The ideas are contained in a report launched on Wednesday: New markets for land and nature –

How Natural Infrastructure Schemes could pay for a better environment.

National Trust has offered its 200,000 hectare estate as a testbed for a workable version of the theory and will be orchestrating a landowner leadership group as a next step.

More details in October’s issue of The Water Report.