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Water management must be transformed across England and Wales to increase our resilience to climate change, CLA says - Country Land and Business Association

Landowners hold the key to protecting rural communities, reducing the risk of flooding, increasing resilience to drought and improving water quality, according to a new report released by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

With the first few months of 2021 seeing one of the driest Aprils on record, followed by one of the wettest Mays, it is clear that we are seeing the impacts of climate change and that they are here to stay. Some farms were submerged in water for over three months this past winter, which led to the inability to plant crops for an entire year. And with winters getting milder and wetter due to climate change, the Met Office predicts that the risk of floods has increased by at least 20% and up to 90%.

The CLA Water Strategy: a vision for the water environment to 2030 policy paper, released by the CLA which represents 28,000 landowners and farmers across England and Wales, found that under the right policy framework, landowners could play a key role in improving the wider water environment by harnessing nature-based solutions, at comparatively low cost.

Currently, the Environment Agency (EA), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Lead Local Flood Authorities (LLFAs), alongside landowners and farmers, share responsibility for flood defences. However, the EA and NRW are often too slow to respond to essential maintenance of existing flood defences, leaving many communities vulnerable to serious flooding.

Many landowners are already stepping-up and protect their local communities, but are often crippled by uncertainty on whether they can undertake the maintenance work themselves. Community supported organisations like internal drainage boards, or locally-led partnerships like the Somerset Rivers Authority are often far better placed than the EA or NRW to maintain main rivers, so the CLA argues these organisations should be allowed to take over responsibility for main rivers across England and Wales.

Landowners using their land to mitigate flood risks through Natural Flood Risk Management (NFM) projects has been proven to be extremely successful. These projects can involve creating wetlands and saltmarshes, or planting trees to stabilise riverbanks, with the aim of slowing the flow of water, helping it to be absorbed, while also improving biodiversity, water quality, water availability and carbon storage.

View the Policy Paper.

Posted on: 18 June 2021

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