Landlines: Water spreads disease and pollution

Although most of our area escaped the worst of the early January floods there’s enough water lying in fields and round buildings to remind us of our uneasy relationship with one of the simplest and most common chemical combinations on earth – H2O.

By Halidon
Saturday, 11th January 2014, 12:00 pm
Flooding causes big problems on farmland
Flooding causes big problems on farmland

We can’t do without it and future lack of water in many countries is seen as one of the greatest problems facing humanity.

At the same time flooding caused by heavy rainfalls seems to be an increasing problem over much of Europe and the arguments over the contribution to that of climate change continue.

As ever, those at the sharp end facing flooded fields, drowned livestock, ground floors feet deep in water and debris or simply unable to get to work because of flooded roads and swept-away bridges are more concerned with the present than the future. And on the principle of the old Spanish proverb that “When you’re sad, bees sting you” – or probably more to the point “It never rains, but it pours” – there are few things more infuriating in a wet spell than to find you have a leaking water pipe.

Trying to find the precise underground source of a leak can be frustrating and difficult. I might seem particularly jaundiced about that after several hours of digging was still needed this week to trace and repair a leak even when we’d used a modern bleeping detector (that’s what they do when water is found where it shouldn’t be, not a euphemistic description.)

As the water leak expert told me – I knew already, but it made him happy – water invariably finds the easiest outlet. The slightest pinhole leak in a pipe and it’s out of there.

This propensity also means that water is the most effective spreader of disease and pollution with cholera a prime example.

Back at farm level the same principle applies. Water and pollution go together. That’s why, in spite of the usual protests about bureaucracy and gold-plating of regulations, farmers have gradually accepted that more efforts must be made to avoid polluting water courses, burns and rivers with slurry, fertiliser and pesticides run off. Such diffuse pollution – insidious, often unseen and unthought of – has much worse long term effects on clean water supplies and the environment than occasional large scale flooding.

But trying to comply with rules and advice on how to reduce diffuse pollution can be confusing. Now an attempt has been made to coordinate legislation and good practice, at least in Scotland, with a farming and water initiative that involves government, the NFU, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and the Scottish rural university college.

Most things a practical farmer working against the clock needs to know about how to avoid diffuse pollution have been encapsulated in a pocket-size booklet called ‘Know The Rules.’ Don’t wait for a rainy day to read it.