Water grants 2015: swales (RP11)

Eligibility and requirements for swales.

This guidance was withdrawn on

Capital items for improving water quality are now available through the Mid Tier of Countryside Stewardship.

Applies to England

Farmers and other land managers can apply for water grants.

Read the accompanying guidance to find out more about Countryside Stewardship water grants 2015.

How much will be paid

£5.95 per square metre.

Where the item is available

This item is available in Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) target areas.

When this item can’t be used

It can’t be used:

  • to collect dirty water, effluents, slurries or other heavily contaminated waters;
  • if it will interrupt the movement of migratory eels or fish; or
  • on historic or archaeological features and areas of existing wildlife value.

How this item will benefit the environment

This item will create swales to collect surface water flows. The collected water will then infiltrate the ground or be re-directed to a watercourse. This will reduce soil erosion and other problems related to water pollution. Swales can also slow water flows during heavy rainfall and reduce downstream flooding.


Applicants must send dated photographs of the existing site with their application for this item. Before applying for this item, applicants must discuss their proposals with:

  • the Environment Agency;
  • their Internal Drainage Board (if appropriate); and/or
  • the local planning authority (planning permission will be needed for any engineering operations).

Applicants must send any advice or consent they receive with their application for this item. With permission from Natural England, advice and consent can be received up until 29 May 2015; applicants can discuss this with their local CSF officer.

On the land

Successful applicants will need to:

  • place the swale along a contour or on a slope of no more than 2 degrees;
  • mark the layout of the swale on the ground;
  • dig the swale to a depth of 750mm;
  • stockpile the topsoil separately, to use at the bottom of the swale and on its slopes;
  • grade the side slopes to no more than 1 in 3;
  • dig for a further 150 to 250mm and place the topsoil on the floor of the swale; and
  • establish a dense grass sward on the sides and floor of the swale.

Alternatively, they may need to follow the requirements set out in their water management plan, provided through CSF.

Keeping records

Successful applicants will need to keep:

  • dated photographs of the site after the work has taken place (submit these with any claim and show them on request); and
  • copies of all receipted invoices and bank statements relating to this work.

What must not be done

Spoil must not be placed on any historic or archaeological features or areas of wildlife value when carrying out the works.

How to carry out this item

The following section gives advice on carrying out this item successfully.

Use this item with other measures

This item should be used with the other measures set out in the CSF advice. Soil erosion should also be reduced and water infiltration increased by following best practice for soil management.

Use check dams or silt barriers

Check dams or silt filtration barriers can be used in swales to help reduce flow speeds and encourage infiltration.

How to prepare a seed mixture

To establish the sward, successful applicants must sow a seed mixture at a seed rate of 25g per square metre. The mixture should be a multi-species grass mix, such as creeping red fescue (70%), smooth meadow-grass (20%) and creeping bent (10%).

The following items can be used on the same area as this item:

Further information

The management of water on land can be improved by using the Rural Sustainable Drainage Systems guide.

Published 2 March 2015