A consortium of organisations from the West of England has been awarded Defra funding to explore the potential for application of a Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) approach in the region. PES typically involves paying landowners to make changes to the way in which their land is managed in order to deliver a range of benefits, often relating to improving downstream water quality, and reducing flood risk.
The project will investigate the potential of changes in land management to tackle soil erosion, reduce flood risk, and deliver a range of other benefits, such as enhanced biodiversity, within specific catchments.
The project partners will be exploring the potential for application of novel mechanisms to overcome problems such as the time lag between the implementation of measures, and the delivery of the anticipated benefits. One such mechanism to be explored could be a revolving loan fund, similar to those that have been successfully implemented in the waste sector. The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership has indicated support for this approach in its Strategic Economic Plan.
The successful team is led by Eunomia, and includes Bristol Water, Wessex Water, the Avon Wildlife Trust Consultancy (AWT) and TLT Solicitors. The bid received support from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and the West of England Nature Partnership. In a competitive process, the team’s proposal was one of only five successful Projects chosen from a group of 30 applicants.
Commenting on the successful bid, Dr Chris Sherrington of Eunomia said:
‘We’re delighted to have this opportunity to explore ways to address what we see as fundamental barriers to the implementation of such schemes to date. Our research should identify the most effective measures and create a template to ensure that future schemes work equally well for both land managers, and the beneficiaries of the changes they make.’
Patric Bulmer from Bristol Water said:
“We have seen how the costs of dealing with the consequences soil erosion have escalated in recent years. Instead of dealing with the symptoms of existing land management practices, it makes sense for us to explore how we can work with the grain of nature and address the underlying cause. If the compensation that land managers require to change practices is less than we currently spend in dealing with the problem, we will all be better off financially, all the while improving the quality of the natural environment.”
Ruth Barden of Wessex Water added:
“As keen advocates of the catchment management approach, we are very happy to support this project, which holds the promise of providing a template for our future schemes (which we hope to implement).”
Bevis Watts, CEO of Avon Wildlife Trust said:
“Using and managing our natural assets better can not only reduce the costs of processing and treating water but will also be a huge boost for our wildlife and support its recovery.”