Apply for water management grants
Farmers can apply for a grant to create or improve on-farm irrigation, through the Countryside Productivity Scheme.
Farmers can apply to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) for a grant to improve the water efficiency of their farm irrigation and reservoir system. The system must be used by the applicant for on-farm activity.
Applicants can also apply if they represent:
- a water sharing consortium or
- a water abstractor group
Grants are intended to make irrigation more efficient – to be eligible, applicants must already be irrigating.
This grant is part of the Countryside Productivity Scheme.
How much funding is available
Grants can cover up to 40% of the total eligible costs of the proposal.
This grant is a large grant – which means a grant of between £35,000 and £1,000,000.
What the grant will fund
All applicants need to apply for funding for water metering equipment to record water use (that is, how much water is taken from the reservoir).
They also need to apply for at least one of the following (unless they already have one of these and can send evidence:
- software that can monitor soil moisture, water consumption and usage and control and manage water distribution
- remote soil moisture monitoring sensors, and
- precision irrigation equipment like trickle irrigation tapes, pipes and hoses
The applicant may also apply for funding for these optional items:
- to build new reservoirs that are filled by peak-flow abstraction, if this forms part of a project that improves elements of existing irrigation infrastructure
- improvements to existing irrigation reservoirs that are filled by peak-flow abstraction
- infrastructure to distribute water from the above-mentioned reservoirs to the irrigation equipment, and
- water filtration systems, such as sand filters
For businesses that are not in a catchment sensitive farming area, grants can also be used to fund rainwater harvesting and water recycling equipment that diverts water to the irrigation reservoir.
Everything on an application should be used together, as a water management package.
Costs that are not eligible for funding
Priorities for these grants
Applications have a better chance of success if they are for:
- projects that help prevent flash floods or improve flood mitigation measures or
- natural filtration systems with no energy demand
To be eligible, the project must meet these 4 conditions:
- the project must lead to annual water savings of at least 5%
- water savings gained by the investment must be split between the applicant’s business and the environment
- if the project leads to an increase in irrigated area, applicants must get an environmental analysis and send this in with their application
- the water for the irrigation system must be taken from specific sources
Read more about these below.
The project must lead to annual water savings of at least 5%
A saving is defined as a reduction in the amount of water flowing through the equipment affected by the investment, without having a negative impact on the crops to which the water is finally being provided. Applicants should be able to achieve current levels of production with less water.
The savings identified will form part of any funding offer. Applicant will be expected to make the savings and report on them.
How to calculate the water saving
To calculate the water saving, applicants must tell us what their baseline current water usage is, then show the annual reduction in water usage (m3) due to the proposed investment.
Information about baseline water usage can be from water metering or from a water bill.
First, the applicant should tell us what the baseline current water usage, by giving us the following information. Tell us the holding’s total water usage (m3) as an annual average calculated over 5 years. Give the total figure and also give a breakdown showing how much water (m3) is used for:
- water sales to third parties, and
- other activities requiring water use by the holding
If the holding has multiple irrigation systems, applicants must also give the water usage (m3) for the specific irrigation system on which improvements are proposed – the annual average (m3) calculated over 5 years.
Finally, applicants should also give the current permitted annual use (m3), ie that permitted through abstraction licences.
Applicants must then tell us which of these figures is the baseline current water usage. If the holding has one irrigation system, this is either the holding’s total water usage or the current permitted annual use – use whichever figure is lower.
If the holding has multiple irrigation systems, this is the either the water usage for the specific irrigation system(s) on which improvements are proposed or the current permitted use – use whichever figure is lower.
Water savings gained by the investment must be split between the applicant’s business and the environment
The proposed project must allow any water savings to be split between the applicant’s business and the environment.
This means that the applicant’s projected annual usage should not exceed the baseline figure, minus 50% of the proposed water saving.
For example, if the baseline usage is 10,000 and a saving of 1,000 (10%) is proposed, the projected water usage should not exceed 9,500. This would provide the business with an extra 500 units to use while benefitting the environment by reducing needs by 500.
To show this, give the projected water usage (m3) across the holding once the proposed system is installed. (If the holding has multiple irrigation systems, the application should show the projected water usage (m3) for the irrigation system on which improvements are proposed, once those are installed).
Identify the current and proposed irrigation area
Tell us the current and proposed irrigation area by giving:
- the area (hectares) irrigated on the holding – this is the total irrigated area over the previous year
- the area (hectares) to be irrigated on the holding once the investment is installed
If the irrigated area will increase, the applicant must confirm that an environmental analysis has been completed in relation to the proposed investment(s). Any analysis does not remove the applicant’s responsibilities for getting other permits or consents, such as those under Environmental Impact Assessment regulations.
This analysis must find that there will be no significant negative environmental impact from the investment. It must also consider the impact of the project on Water Framework Directive environmental objectives. A copy of this analysis must be provided with the grant application.
Applicants can call RPA for more information about what’s required from the environmental analysis:
Call the Rural Payments helpline on 0300 0200 301 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The water for the irrigation system must come from specific sources
The water for the irrigation system must only be taken from one or more of the following:
- surface water abstraction points
- recycled or harvested water
- grey water
If the applicant has the necessary permission from the local water company or authority and the system follows the British Standard Code of Practice BS 8525-1: 2010.
If filling reservoirs using surface water abstraction, the applicant must make sure that they use peak-flow abstraction – this means taking the water at times when it’s plentiful, for example in winter.
The relevant water abstraction licences must be in place before a funding offer can be made.
How to apply
Read the overview about how to apply for Countryside Productivity grants. Applicants need to:
- register with the Rural Payments online service (if they have not already done so)
- complete an outline application form
- send it to the RPA – read about how to send applications
If an outline application is successful, RPA will send applicants a large grant full application form. Applicants should send this to RPA, along with supporting evidence.
Evidence to send with an application
For this grant, applicants will need to show the project will improve water efficiency, reduce the costs of production and not adversely affect yields.
Applicants need to send this specific evidence:
- copies of relevant abstraction licences and evidence to confirm peak flow abstraction
- evidence to confirm the baseline usage figure (water bills, metering records etc)
- a plan of the holding identifying the holdings existing and proposed irrigation systems
- proof of planning permission where required
- supporting calculations demonstrating how the annual reduction in water usage enabled by the proposed investment has been calculated, and
- for projects that will increase the irrigated area, an environmental analysis.
Evidence to show an applicant already has one of the required grant items
If an applicant already has one of the required grant item(s) in place, they should send evidence, including a photograph, to show that the item(s) is already in place and is compatible with the proposed new items. Grants will not cover any items a business already owns.
- what happens after applying
- what to do if an application is successful
- what to do if an application is unsuccessful
Find out what other equipment is eligible for grants under the Countryside Productivity Scheme.
Applicants can apply for multiple small grants in one application, or multiple large grants in one application.
Applicants can’t apply for a mix of small and large grants in one application.