THE success of an Eden pilot scheme which could help reduce the risk of flooding on UK farmland was highlighted of a special event.

Experts from the fields of water treatment, milk production, sustainable supply chains,together with policy advisors from Defra, joined forces to discuss future landscape management at a meeting hosted by Dalston-based Nestle.

It was a chance to showcase some new and innovative ideas that have been talking shape along the River Eden valley, aimed at protecting the farmers, businesses, habitats and communities whose lives and livelihoods are all interlinked with the river.

United Utilities has been working with farmers to tackle drainage and erosion problems that can cause soil, fertilisers or animal waste to pollute the river.

By tackling the problems at source and helping to fund improvements on farms, the water company has proven that river water quality can be improved without spending millions of pounds on new water treatment measures.

Amina Aboobakar, United Utilities’ integrated catchment strategy manager, explained: “We’re seeing more extremes of weather and that has a big impact on our rivers and the communities that depend on them.

“That could be natural erosion, water pollution, flooding of property and loss of habitat or green community spaces.

“Rather than tackle the different issues separately with traditional models of engineering or funding, we’re seeing that there’s a lot of overlap in our objectives.

“That means we can pool our resources and achieve far more by working together and working smarter.”

The knock-on benefits for farmers include reduced flood risk, better soil quality and opportunities for diversification and a more resilient business.

For the past two years Nestle has been incentivising its dairy farmers to dairy farmers to implement on farm interventions to improve biodiversity habitat, water quality, soil structure and reduce flood risk.

Changes in land management can include planting more woodland to slow the flow of water and reduce flood risk downstream.

Andy Griffiths, Head of Value Chain Sustainability at Nestlé UK & Ireland said working together would further enhance natural asset stewardship, improve water quality, reduce flood risk, enhance biodiversity habitat, improve soil quality and enable farm diversification and resilience. As well as collaborating with United Utilities, we are now seeing other organisations expressing an interest to explore how they could also engage.”

The event included discussions about other changes in land management which might include planting more woodland, to slow the flow of water and reduce flood risk downstream, bringing new forestry business opportunities.