£80,000 is being invested in identifying and tackling water pollution in the South Downs National Park thanks to a partnership between the South Downs National Park Authority, Environment Agency and the Downs & Harbours Clean Water Partnership.
1.2 million people across south east England rely on water taken from the chalk hills of the South Downs National Park. This water should naturally be of very high quality but nitrates, largely derived from current and past use of agricultural fertiliser, are affecting water quality, meaning that a considerable amount of money may have to be spent on treating it before it can be used.
Andrew Lee, Director of Strategy & Partnerships for the South Downs National Park Authority said: “The iconic chalk hills of the South Downs act as a huge sponge which filters and stores rainwater, feeds rivers and streams, supports wildlife and provides fresh water for people and industry.
“We want to identify exactly where the nitrate pollution is coming from and then work with farmers to find better ways to tackle it. For example supporting farmers to introduce more sustainable land use in key sites could be more cost effective for water companies than paying to remove the nitrates later on.”
Simon Moody, Environment Manager for the Environment Agency said: “This is the first step towards the vital work of improving groundwater quality across the South Downs National Park. It is excellent news for the natural environment and the 1.2 million people across the south east who rely on drinking water drawn from the South Downs.”
The first stage of the project will be an extensive survey of the National Park and the creation of a computer model to identify different sources of nitrate pollution across the South Downs.
The work is part of the South Downs Way Ahead Nature Improvement Area (NIA), a scheme to protect and expand chalk grassland habitats along the length of the South Downs Way national trail and the economic and social benefits they bring, such as clean drinking water.
This project is being funded by £50,000 NIA funding, a £25,000 grant from the Environment Agency and £5,000 from the Downs & Harbours Clean Water Partnership.