Align farm subsidies and water investment to up green performance says think tank

Green Alliance has called for post-Brexit farm subsidies to end the “clash” between pollution-causing agricultural practices and pollution-cleaning water company investment.

In a report From blue to green, released last week, the environmental charity and think tank said public and private investment should be planned together and focus on whole catchment schemes aimed at landscape scale sustainable land management.

Not only would this reduce the cost of water clean up (and water bills), but catchment management measures such as planting cover crops and restoring wetlands would also contribute to wider environmental goals such as providing vital habitat for wildlife and reducing flood and drought risks.

The report states agriculture and land management are responsible for nearly a third of failures to meet water targets, mainly arising from fertilisers, manures and pesticide pollution. While the government paid £36.6 billion in basic subsidy payments to farmers between 1995 and 2015, water companies spent £20 billion in the same period on environmental improvements to water, often cleaning up pollution caused by agriculture.