Water Industry News

£74m Slurry Infrastructure Investment To Tackle Water Pollution

The government has unveiled a £74 million investment pot to help farmers around the country make further investments in slurry infrastructure, with the aim being to address the issues of water pollution and air quality, while improving use of organic nutrients.


The second round of the slurry infrastructure grant is now open, available to dairy, beef and pig farmers whose systems produce slurry (a mixture of water and manure that’s spread on land to act as a natural fertiliser to encourage crop growth).


The grant can be used to replace, expand or cover existing slurry stores, or build additional spaces as required, with the second round more than double the funding that was made available in the first cycle of the scheme to help meet increased demand.


Various improvements have also been made based on feedback following the first round, including offering funds for slurry separators, options to retrofit existing store covers and how much storage pig farmers can apply for.


Farmers are now able to apply for between £25,000 and £250,000 to carry out improvements across their sites, as well as investing in equipment like agitators, reception pits and separators.


The investment pot forms a key component of the Plan for Water, which aims to clean up the nation’s waterways and build resilience into the system to ensure a plentiful supply for the future.


This will be achieved by tackling all pollution sources, including chemicals, road run-off, plastics, agriculture and storm overflows, as well as focusing on population growth and climate change, which are also putting pressure on water resources.


Why do we need slurry?


Slurry – or livestock manure – is an essential agricultural tool, used to help increase organic matter in soil, which supports crop growth and helps drive productivity while reducing the use of artificial fertilisers.


However, slurry spreading can be problematic if it takes place where there is no soil or crop requirement, which is often down to insufficient storage capacity. This can lead to significant water pollution, while increasing costs for farmers and wasting a useful and valuable resource.


Maintaining open slurry stores and broadcast spreading can also cause problems for the environment, with large amounts of ammonia making its way into the natural world, putting both vulnerable species and human health alike at risk.


This second round of funding will mean that farmers can surpass existing storage requirements, while improving regulatory compliance and using organic nutrients more effectively.


It comes ahead of the launch of two additional rounds of the Farming Equipment and Technology Fund next year and the year after, which will see £21 million on offer for smaller pieces of equipment to help improve management slurry, including the likes of low emission spreaders and nutrient testing kits.


There are other complementary options that farmers can also apply for as part of the Sustainable Farming Incentive, including help producing a nutrient management plan and establishing multispecies winter cover and buffer strips.


Mark Spencer, farming minister, said: “We’re indebted to farmers who work day in day out to ensure we have great British food on our tables while protecting and shaping our countryside.


“It’s vital they are supported to make the environmental improvements I know so many want to make. Our Slurry Infrastructure Grant is helping farmers to invest in infrastructure which is often costly but can deliver big benefits for our waterways and air quality, while also cutting their input costs.”


How does slurry cause water pollution?


Last year, the Environmental Audit Committee found that just 14 per cent of rivers in England currently meet good ecological status, with a “chemical cocktail” of slurry, sewage, road pollution and single-use plastics flowing through our waterways… and not one river in England was given a clean bill of health for chemical contamination.


One of the biggest causes of slurry-related river pollution is the release of harmful nutrients and chemicals when it starts to decompose.


The likes of nitrogen and phosphorus are released, which can lead to the excessive growth of algae, as well as other aquatic plants. This is known as eutrophication and can see oxygen levels in the water drop, which can damage local biodiversity. Chemicals like zinc, copper and lead, as well as antibiotics, can be released as well, which are toxic to aquatic life.


In order to reduce the risks of slurry-based pollution, farmers need to make sure that they’re storing slurry responsibly, either in tanks or lagoons that have been specifically designed to prevent leaks and spills. Slurry also needs to be disposed of properly so it can’t enter waterways and cause problems.


As herd sizes have increased over the years, farmers face increasing challenges and barriers to slurry management, storage and application. Best practices include the likes of preventing rainwater from being mixed into the slurry, which will increase the amount of liquid in the mix and thus increase the amount of storage space required.


Separation technology can also prove useful, helping to reduce the requisite storage space, as well as making it easier to handle and transport, reduced odour and less risk of localised environmental pollution.


This can be achieved through the use of screens, presses or centrifuges, or by using screen separation to pass the slurry through a screen that only permits particles of a certain size to pass through.


Another option is centrifugation, where a hydrocyclone or centrifuge is used to increase the speed that suspended particles are separated out of the slurry through settling. Alternatively, press separation can prove useful, where belt presses, roller presses or filter presses are used to separate the slurry into solid and liquid fractions.


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