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Multimillion-euro EU project to improve water quality in south of England

RiverRotherBrightonWeir

THE Interreg France (Channel) England programme has announced the University of Chichester will lead a new €4million European project to significantly improve the water quality in rivers and lakes in the south of England and north of France.

Currently only 30 to 40 per cent of waters entering the English Channel are classified as ‘Good Ecological Status’ which is largely due to the high level of nitrates and phosphates in the water as a result of intensive farming. The cross-border project, known as CPES (Channel Payment for Ecosystem Services), will aim to reduce nutrient levels by implementing six pilot PES (Payment for Ecosystem Services) schemes across the Channel area.

PES schemes work by offering financial incentives to farmers and land managers to encourage them to implement more environmentally friendly methods of farming, such as ploughing orientation, targeted use of fertilisers and planting trees, which help significantly reduce the levels of run-off and nutrients in the water system. The incentives are funded through the establishment of a market with downstream users who benefit from cleaner water supplies, for example water companies and tourism businesses.

The PES schemes implemented by the project will promote a number of improvements in land management practices by reducing the costs and risks associated with earlier PES schemes. The six pilot areas will include the Rother River in the South Downs and the Lac au Duc in Brittany, and will target 90 farms and land managers, as well as 18 water quality companies.

Project CPES will encourage the wider implementation of these type of PES schemes by using the six pilot sites to develop a resources toolkit which will then be made available to other water companies and land managers in new locations. This toolkit will act as a template that can then be used to replicate other commercially sustainable PES schemes across the country.

The PES schemes designed by the project will offer a more cost effective method of improving water quality which currently involves water companies managing nutrient levels in drinking water by blending high and low nitrate water sources.

Prof Dave Cooper

Professor Dave Cooper, head of the University of Chichester's Business School, above, said: “We are delighted to have secured this European funding. The CPES project offers an exciting opportunity to work with partners from both the UK and France to find a sustainable and effective way of improving the quality of the water entering the English Channel and reducing the costs of treating drinking water.”

The cross-border project between France and the UK will total 4 million euros with 69 per cent funded by the Interreg France (Channel) England programme, representing a European Regional Development Fund budget of 2.8 million Euros. A total of 11 organisations from France and the UK will be involved in the project which will last three-and-a-half years.