South East Water’s pioneering environmental project wins national award
03 February 2017

South East Water’s Catchment Team has won the prestigious Rushlight Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry and Biodiversity Award for their pioneering and innovative work with farmers and landowners to reduce the amount of metaldehyde entering rivers and watercourses.

Metaldehyde is a selective pesticide used by farmers and gardeners to control slugs and snails in a wide variety of crops. Metaldehyde pellets applied to crops on land can find their way into drains and water courses either directly during application, or as a result of run off during heavy rainfall. Levels of metaldehyde have been detected in trace concentrations in the rivers or reservoirs used for drinking water.

South East Water recognised the link between land management and river water quality and set out their pioneering plan to address the issue of metaldehyde entering water sources in 2015, working with farmers to the benefit of both industries.

A distinguished panel drawn from senior personnel across science, innovation, the environment and business sectors judged the entries for the Rushlight Award, which had to demonstrate that their project had made, or had the greatest potential to make, the most impressive and positive impact on the environment.

Emma Goddard, South East Water’s Head of Environment, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have our pioneering work on metaldehyde recognised and acknowledged by winning this prestigious award, which reflects the team’s hard work on environmental catchment management. Engaging and collaborating with farmers has helped them appreciate the water environment and how we can all work together for mutual benefit.”

The water company is working on the project in partnership with Natural England, as the Water and Farming Partnership. Natural England has described South East Waster’s new working techniques, which other water companies are now adopting as “the future for protecting both water quality and the natural environment”.

By 2020 the water company aims to have made a significant difference to the environment and watercourses by promoting good farming practice and alternative methods of slug control. Their innovative project, which treats the cause of the problem rather than the symptoms, has already produced some headline-grabbing results, recording a number of notable industry breakthroughs which have enhanced the company’s reputation and drawn praise from stakeholders and farmers.

Tim Peacock from Procam Rutherfords, a specialist company providing agronomy services to farmers said: “The great thing about the South East Water team is they are proactive and actively want to work with growers, that is so refreshing.”

James Seymour from Natural England said: “This project is an industry exemplar of how private and public sectors can work together, in partnership, and with the agricultural community to deliver more than just end-of-pipe solutions.”

South East Water’s NEP Surface Water Catchment Management Lead, Simon Lohrey collected the award on behalf of the company at the Rushlight Awards’ ceremony held at the Royal College of Surgeons on 25 January. It was presented by John Loughhead, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The Rushlight Awards, which were founded 10 years ago, showcase the work of clean-tech companies and industries who focus on promoting sustainability by reducing their carbon output and their impact on the environment, and helping government to meet their greenhouse emissions targets.