South East Water encourages farmers to harvest rain

Vanessa MacNaughton
Vanessa MacNaughton says harvesting rain water has saved her farm £1,000 in a year

A water company is encouraging farmers to harvest more rain water in order to help them through future droughts.

South East Water arranged a demonstration of the latest technology, which has been installed on a beef farm in Goudhurst, Kent.

But some farmers said the company was "deflecting the problem" onto them, and they would need more incentive to invest.

South East Water said it wanted to help farmers have "resilience of supply".

Three vats, each holding 30,000 litres (6,600 gallons) of water, have been set up at Goudhurst, capable of providing enough drinking water for the farm's cattle herd for a month.

The water is collected from the roof and filtered through a system of pipes.

Farmer Vanessa MacNaughton estimates it has cut her usual annual drinking water bill of £5,000 by 20%.

"It's saved three cubic metres of water a day," she said, "which equates to over £6 a day, and we've got the cows in for five months of the year, so it's about £1,000 saving per year."

But some farmers who were invited to view the new technology thought there should be more incentives from South East Water for them to install it.

"What they're prepared to do is to fund us in year one," said fruit and arable farmer Peter Hall, "but what they're not offering is any long term payments for this."

Water harvesting butts
Each vat holds 30,000 litres of water
Rain harvesting pipes and filters
The rain water is collected and filtered from the roof of the farm's buildings

Another arable farmer, Lou Carpenter, said: "I think it's very convenient for the water companies to deflect the problem back onto farmers, and I think that's too easy."

Al Stewart, from South East Water, said: "What we're trying to do is facilitate them to have their own resilience of supply.

"For us in the water companies, what that means is that if we can reduce peak demand when demand is very, very high, then that really helps us as well."

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