WaterFuture - Get into water

We’re changing the way we think about water and the landscape by working in partnership with farmers to improve rivers and wildlife habitats to ensure future resilient water supplies and reduce the risk of flooding. 

In 2015 we started working with Catchment Sensitive Farming (delivered by Natural England) in the River Stour catchment to protect drinking water sources from Metaldehyde a powerful slug killer used by farmers. This successful programme became part of South West Waters award winning Upstream Thinking programme in 2020. It will continue to engage with farmers on agri-chemical use and other water quality issues for the next 5 years.

We are working to reduce the amount of energy we use to help manage our costs and cut our carbon footprint, which will help slow down the effects of climate change. We self generate some of the electricity we use from our own renewable energy schemes, such as the solar power we've installed on some of our larger sites. 

Our operational work often takes us onto environmentally sensitive and protected land. We have developed a protocol methodology agreed with Natural England that enables us to work efficiently and safely, while protecting the special site.

This methodology is the first of its kind in the UK. It has been published and shared with other water companies.

Catchment sensitive farming

A summary of the last 5 years

Over the five years spanning 2015 to 2020 Bournemouth Water have been working in partnership with Catchment Sensitive Farming in the Dorset Stour river catchment. CSF is a National project that works with farmers  to reduce diffuse water pollution from agriculture to improve water quality. The concern existed that the occurrence of the pesticide Metaldehyde, the active ingredient in slug pellets, used domestically and in agriculture and was being found in the raw water of the River Stour. Since engaging with CSF on this issue  metaldehyde levels in the River Stour , which is used for abstractions to supply our customers with drinking water Bournemouth Water have reduced.

Metaldehyde is often applied to the land surface through a mounted spreader on the back of a quad-bike and is applied on agricultural crops which are vulnerable to slug damage such as winter wheat, maize and grass re-seeds. Because of its surface application the pesticide is susceptible to finding its way into watercourses, particularly during moderate and heavy rainfall.

Bournemouth Water and CSF devised a water sampling strategy in the Dorset Stour catchment to monitor the water quality of particular waterbodies in the catchment each autumn and enable the targeting of engagement and advice based on risk levels.

Over the course of the project CSF engaged over 240 farmers in the Dorset Stour catchment, raising their awareness of the local metaldehyde issue and offering best practice advice to reduce potential contamination of the River Stour. Engagement with farmers also consisted of determining the extent of the use of the pesticide on their farm holding. The total area of all the farm holdings engaged in the project equates to over 35,000ha.

A summary of the next 5 years

Bournemouth Water have a number of environment and water quality aims within the Dorset Stour catchment and are working with CSF to achieve these on the ground. The key aims within the catchment are to:

  • Improve the Dorset Stour as a long-term abstraction source
  • Reduce catchment detections of pesticides which have caused historical/current problems (e.g. Metaldehyde and broadleaved weed hebicides)
  • Reduce pollutant levels of nitrates, phosphates, cryptosporidium and faecal coliforms which derive from agricultural diffuse water pollution
  • Reduce soil erosion from agriculture to improve river ecology and maintain healthy function of the river ecosystem
  • Improve the enhancement of condition and connectivity of wildlife habitats (in particular: water meadows, hedges and woodland)


Work on achieving these aims in the catchment will be delivered via catchment management with the active presence of a Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer. The objectives in the catchment are to:

  • Work with farmers and land managers to raise awareness of the common pesticide failures and provide best practice advice on the safe handling, storage and use of them and their stewardship to reduce catchment detections and failures upon testing
  • Monitor the level of metaldehyde and grassland herbicides in the Stour and its tributaries to further scrutinise potential sources of pollution
  • Work with farmers and land managers to review and identify opportunities to improve farm infrastructure, slurry and manure handling and storage facilities to reduce diffuse water pollution, with a focus on nitrates, phosphates and sediments
  • Work with farmers and land managers to improve overall nutrient management practices through encouraging the efficient and integrated use of organic and inorganic fertilisers
  • Work with farmers and land managers to reduce sediment and soil phosphate loss from agriculture by encouraging better soil husbandry, particularly in grassland and after maize, as well as a focus on improving livestock management to benefit water quality
  • Work with farmers and land managers to restrict direct access to watercourses from livestock to prevent bankside poaching and straight defecation to reduce faecal coliforms