Helping farmers deal with water supply interruption; The AHDB and Water Direct offer advice.
According to the Environment Agency, if we don’t improve water supply, reduce demand and cut down on wastage, many areas of the UK will face significant water shortage in the coming years with some areas already having less water per person than the desert states of Syria and Sudan. This increased pressure, combined with the expectation of continued increase in extreme weather conditions, means that continuity of water supply must be high on the agenda for businesses across the UK.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), based in Kenilworth, Warwickshire is a statutory levy board funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain to help develop the industry. The AHDBs Water Resources Scientist, Nicola Dunn has led the creation of a new guide, designed to help alleviate livestock stress and keep them safe when water supplies are interrupted. She offers sound advice: “We’d encourage farmers and growers to develop contingency plans and consider options, which could make the difference between a profit or loss situation this summer” she says. To help farmer and growers, Water Direct has set out some additional advice below to help those businesses plan in case of water supply interruptions.
Do agricultural businesses need a documented contingency plan for water?
With livestock and horticultural businesses acutely dependent on a reliable supply of potable water it may be that they already have a contingency plan in place. Indeed, many non-household water customers- including farms- decide to invest in commissioning a documented contingency plan for water; after all, the small cost of commissioning a plan could be a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the potential cost of prolonged interruption.
“In the heat of the moment during a disruptive event, key personnel will want to quickly and easily find a step by step guide so that staff know what to do; that’s the key aspect of a water supply contingency plan.” Explains Jonathan West, Managing Director of Water Direct and sister company FGS Agri.
“We’ve run a farming business for 25 years and that puts us in a unique position of understanding our customers’ needs.” he says. “A comprehensive contingency plan will set out the risks and consequences of an interruption to supply. It will outline security and vehicle access considerations, offer mitigation advice and clearly define alternative supply solutions. Customers need to know the expected shape, scale and speed of response, and how much alternative provision is likely to cost.” concludes Jonathan.
While a documented contingency plan is certainly critical for larger businesses, some customers do not require fully documented plans. For those, simply having the peace of mind that they can call on an emergency delivery when it’s needed is enough and Water Direct provides signboards and emergency contact cards which can be located in key positions or given to key personnel. These are always provided free of charge and enable the customer to keep the 24/7 contact number easily accessible.
Livestock holders as priority customers
Following the changes in water regulation in April 2017, non-household water consumers can now choose their water supplier in the same way they do their energy supplier. This means that farmers now buy their water supply through the water retailer and it may be of some reassurance to know that when a livestock business is on mains supply, it may be recognised as a ‘sensitive customer’ by the wholesaler (the water utility company that owns and maintains the network).
MOSL, the water retail market operator in England states that “Customers agreed as ‘sensitive’ must be treated as a priority” ensuring that the water wholesaler can prioritise accordingly. But what does that mean for agricultural businesses in terms of expected scope, scale and speed of response? In fact, it’s also clear from wholesaler policy documents that responsibility lies firmly with the customer with one stating that: “Non-household customers (…) are expected to maintain their own business continuity plans for managing unplanned changes in water services”. This includes livestock businesses and with the wholesaler’s regulatory obligation remaining to household customers, it’s possible to imagine a scenario where a ‘priority response’ to a non-household customer does not meet with their expectations.
The importance of water quality assurance
Whether a farm receives water by mains supply, abstraction from a watercourse or a private borehole, in the event of an interruption there are alternative supply solutions available. The ADHB advice suggests that customers should always consider if the alternative supply is safe and this is particularly important for livestock; water provided to livestock must be clean and safe for drinking. Water Direct prides itself on the quality of our water supplied, with all drinking water provided being guaranteed as ‘potable,’ or fit for human consumption.