Farmers urged to plant trees and flood land amid warnings that Britain could run out of water

·3 min read
Wetlands will be crucial to protecting water, WRAP has said  - Alamy
Wetlands will be crucial to protecting water, WRAP has said - Alamy

Farmers should plant trees and turn some of their land into wetlands in order to stop Britain running out of water, a food waste charity has said.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme's (WRAP) annual progress report highlighted the pressure on water supplies that our food system causes, and warned that the country is hurtling towards shortages.

Food suppliers which have signed up to the charity's waste reduction goals have started to farm more sustainably.

"More than 80 food and drink businesses and 2,000 farmers are engaged across projects, with farm visits undertaken, leading to a range of interventions based on tailored advice received," the report said.

"These have included soil/land management improvements across a quarter of a million hectares, installation of silt traps/wetlands, and planting of trees (18,000) in strategic locations – contributing to net zero aims. Through these actions 750 million litres of water have been replenished back to nature."

Farmers across the UK have been urged to take these recommendations on board in order to stop water running out.

The report highlights East Anglia and Kent as the areas most at threat from water scarcity if Britain continues to waste food and producers do not take action.

Changing diets, towards more fruit and vegetables, which are often imported from drought-stricken countries, may also put pressure on water supplies.

The report said: "Climate change will increase pressures on farmers, with more unpredictable weather and the disruption faced from both water scarcity and flooding. For example, the UN predicts a 40 per cent shortfall of the available global water supply by 2030. Security of supply in this context is a real commercial – and national – concern. Particularly with a future shift to more fruit and veg in diets (most of which is imported. "

Encouragingly, the report noted that companies which have signed up to WRAP's food waste pledge had replenished 750 million litres of water this year, with more than 80 food and drink businesses engaged on projects that reduce water use and water stress across their supply chains.

Forty-five food and drink businesses across the UK saved £300 million's worth of food from being thrown away this year, according to the report.

Writing in the annual review's foreword, WRAP chief executive Marcus Gover warned the food and drinks industry must continue to make significant changes if it is to meet its 2025 goals, which include a 20 per cent reduction in food waste across the supply chain and a 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and consumption of food.

"We need to pick up the pace if we are to achieve the Courtauld 2025 targets," he explained. "We need more collective action in water-stressed regions, and more collaboration to further de-carbonise the food supply chain. We need more businesses committing to 'target, measure and act' on food waste and for public reporting of food waste to become the norm."

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