Water: Somerset

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 21st July 2021.

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Photo of David Warburton David Warburton Conservative, Somerton and Frome

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of potential measures to reduce phosphorous discharge into the surface water catchment area for the Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There are a range of potential measures that can be deployed to reduce phosphorous discharge in the Somerset Levels and Moors catchment. Natural England and the Environment Agency are working with all the relevant parties, including local planning authorities (LPAs) and Wessex Water as well as landowners and developers to evaluate and implement the various options.

To prevent additional phosphorous loading from new development, mitigation measures such as wetland and woodland creation will need to demonstrate that they will be effective in the long term. It is clear from other catchments facing nutrient loading that they have a key role to play in removing nutrients, enabling nutrient-neutral development. Several mitigation schemes for specific developments have been assessed and approved and the LPAs in Somerset are developing a strategy to support wider rollout of these mitigation schemes. There will be significant further investment of up to £57 million over the next three years by Wessex Water to reduce phosphorous discharge from water treatment works.

In the farming sector there are many joint projects underway and more is likely to be needed. The current approach is to encourage the uptake of voluntary measures to reduce the amount of phosphorous entering the system, including Catchment Sensitive Farming. These include a focus on river and habitat improvements, better farming infrastructure, and enforcement by the Environment Agency where necessary.

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