A hidden impact on the freshwater environment

A pile of tile drains dug up from fields in Sussex

I found this picture on my phone the other day – which I took early this year in Suffolk.

The picture shows a pile of clay land drains dug up during pond management work.

They are hidden from daily view, and conceal one of the least understood of environmental impacts – largely because it is unseen: the enormous network of land drains that underlie much of the land.

Unless you’re involved in land management – a farmer, a nature reserve manager, digging ponds – it’s not easy to appreciate quite how widespread land drainage is. Something like 6-7 million hectares of land is drained: that’s about a third of the entire country; and around 70% of farmed land.

Land drainage is essential to modern agriculture because most crops don’t grow well, or at all, in the wet. Indeed, just about the only thing that you can grow on wet land is animals.

Land drainage all but eliminates temporary ponds: millions of small waterbodies – never mapped, impossible to quantify, have probably been removed by this process. And moving water quickly from one place to another by drainage has many other impacts on freshwaters generally.

Managing the impact of drainage is very difficult – it’s essential for modern farming and no solution has been found to preventing the impacts it causes.

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One Response to “A hidden impact on the freshwater environment”

  1. A mitigation site in Essex « Pond at 38 Nursery Rd Blog Says:

    […] I took my TDS meter with me to measure the total dissolved solids within the ponds and in pools of rainwater around the site. We have 6 ponds of various sizes and age in this area (you can see one of them in the photo). The TDS readings were surprising – some were above 400ppm and the middle pond had a TDS reading of less than 20ppm!  I suspect that some of the water draining into these ponds is coming from the former drainage system as outlined in this entry on the garden pond blog […]

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