How can we fairly fund farmers to deliver the work that needs doing to reduce flood risk on the River Culm? Slowing down water on farmland during floods is an essential way to reduce damage to property, but how can we calculate the value of this “ecosystem service”?
That’s the question we’ve spent the last year working on, thanks to a grant from DEFRA’s Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF). Our project was called “Connecting the Natural Capital of the Culm” and we used the funding to develop a “Natural Capital Evaluation Tool”. This tool costs up all the farmland measures identified in our hydrological model, like improving soils, tree-planting, installing bunds and creating new wetlands. It also identifies which ones have the greatest benefit for flood risk reduction. What’s more (and this is a really wonderful tool, we have to say, and all credit to FWAGSW for devising it), it also looks at what funding is already available for these measures from the public purse (eg ELMS) and what the shortfall is, taking account of the lost income that farmers will have in the long term from changing the land use to make their land better for flooding.
We also calculated that not all farms are able to access all the funding that’s available. This is sometimes because schemes are competitive, and some farmers won’t be able to get the funding even if they apply for it. Or a farm may be too small, or in the wrong place, to be able to get the funds. We assumed that on average, 25% of farms seeking funding from public sources won’t be able to access it.
The results of these calculations are very revealing. As you can see in the first table below, we show the storage benefits of various measures (known as PAIRS or Potential Areas of Improved Resilience), and the total costs of implementing them if they were rolled out across the whole catchment, according to our model.