Awards flood in for local water conservationists

Norfolk scooped a string of top prizes in the water efficiency awards in London yesterday and won the praise of Environment Minister Ian Pearson.

Norfolk scooped a string of top prizes in the water efficiency awards in London yesterday and won the praise of Environment Minister Ian Pearson.

The national runner-up was the Broadland Agricultural Water Abstractors Group, which has led the field in practical training for the efficient use of water by more than 130 farmers and landowners across Norfolk.

The award was presented to BAWAG's chairman, Norfolk far-mer Tim Papworth, and Andrew Alston, who runs the group, for their water efficiency initiative. It is now a national benchmark to compare performance and water efficiency with other groups.

“I'm just astounded that BAWAG has been singled out for a national award. It is a tremendous achievement,” said Mr Alston.

The 2007 Environment Agency water efficiency awards were presented at the Energy Clinic by Defra minister Mr Pearson and David King, the agency's director of water management.

Soft fruit grower Tim Place, who has cut the use of irrigation water by about 10pc, was also a winner. His father, John, a former county chairman of Norfolk National Farmers' Union, collected the award.

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Mr Place, who runs Place UK at Tunstead, near Wroxham, grows soft fruit and rhubarb. He has developed sophisticated measuring devices to deliver the precise amount of water needed for each crop.

“We need to replace that water and we feel that trickle is the most efficient way of applying it. We have to measure it and find out exactly how much needs to be put on and where,” he said.

Another winner of the NFU category was Tim Papworth, of the family farming company based at Felmingham, near North Walsham.

“In this last drought, we used less water per acre for potatoes than we would have done 10 years ago. We're much more conscious of the resource than we were 10 years ago and we're looking after that resource and making sure that we don't waste it,” he added.

Mr Pearson said: “Practical examples of the environmental benefits and the cost savings that come with using water more wisely is one of the most effective ways of getting that message across.”

DfES Inspiring Change

t Winner: Broadland Agricultural Water Abstractors Group (Norfolk Broads) - the group's water audit is now an industry standard for the Assured Produce scheme and saves an estimated 190,000 cubic metres of abstracted water a year.

NFU Agriculture and Horticulture winners

t LF Papworth, Felmingham, North Walsham - improving farm irrigation efficiency;

t Natures Way Foods, West Sussex - Rain cloud;

t Place UK, Tunstead, Wroxham - soft fruit scheduling;

t Tamar Nurseries, Wisbech - water recycling