Channel Payments for Ecosystem Services

The EU Partnership project Channel Payments for Ecosystem Services (CPES) brings together organisations on both sides of the English Channel, with the ambition to influence and improve water quality entering it from both coastal regions through the development and trialling of new financial instruments.

Fourteen partners are working towards a common goal: to improve water quality of lakes, rivers and ground waters, by implementing sustainable Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes in six case-study catchments in Southern England and Northern France. The emphasis of the schemes will be to encourage farmers to adopt practices that are more sympathetic to catchment water quality.

Launched in November 2017, CPES is managed within the Interreg VA France (Channel) England programme. It has a €4 million budget, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (€2.8 million). 

Originally running from 2017-2020, it has been granted an extension period, allowing us to deliver until April 2021.


We have been working on different approaches in each of our catchment pilots, collectively sharing knowledge between the wider partnership. Our findings will represent a large case study to inform the understanding of alternative means of investment for practical and effective measures which support water quality and wider environmental benefits.

On the River Lyd, we have been working with a group of companies; the Tamar Water Stewardship Business Board with direct and indirect links to the catchment through their operations and supply chains.

In a collaboration to reduce the impacts on water quality or supply and contribute to a more resilient catchment in the long term, the Board is working towards key objectives such as best practice in soil and nutrient management through supporting their farm producers.

The Tamar Water Stewardship Business Board is now officially recognised as one of just four case studies in the UK, as part of the Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition where the Food and Drink sector have pledged to reduce their environmental footprint – waste, water and Carbon. Visit wrap.org.uk for full details.

In December 2019 / January 2020, we ran an online auction which offered grant funding to landowners in this area. This invited them to bid an offered price against options they were willing to undertake such as watercourse fencing, buffer strips or soil decompaction. It also offered habitat enhancement through woodland planting or the creation of new ponds or wetlands.

The funding behind the auction was obtained via the Business Board to invest back into the catchment for direct improvements which will benefit those farm businesses and our wider catchment health.

As the NatureBid auction was developed with the Environment Agency and Sylva Foundation, the outcomes were directly fed back to Defra as an Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) Test and Trial, which also contributed to the fund itself.

With strong bidding interest outstripping available funds, two clear messages were that farmers are interested in implementing measures for environmental protection if they support the farm business, and a clear and simple application process will also encourage greater uptake.

The works contracted via the auction are now being undertaken and the majority of the 16,000 trees supplied for woodland planting were planted before COVID-19 disrupted activity. A full evaluation of the investment will be carried out once completed to evaluate cost benefit here.

Register Your Interest for the River Gara Grant

On the Gara, which flows to the South Devon coast via Slapton Ley, we have been working with the Environment Agency and Catchment Sensitive Farming to offer a small capital grant scheme.

In 2019, following an initial introduction event with farmers, works were carried out including fencing off wet areas, and installing alternative livestock drinking troughs. These removed direct animal access to the river and hence protected the riverbanks from erosion, which revegetate over time to become stronger natural buffers – stopping or trapping nutrients or soil from reaching the watercourse, or affecting water quality downstream.

Plans are being finalised for a second round of small capital grant funding this summer, an initial outline has been circulated to farmers to gather their interest. Click link below for details.

River Gara Catchment Support for On-Farm Improvements 

With the delivery extension into 2021, we will be focussing on soil management as part of catchment and farm health.

In both our case study areas, the team will be working with farmers to offer them free soil sampling which quantifies Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) levels as part of their farm advice; our objective not only to provide this information to the farmers in context of land management, but also due to interest in Carbon.

As investment potential, the Carbon market is an area that has grown even during the
CPES project lifetime. The work that we have developed in the last five to 10 years will allow us to expand our understanding and compile data not only at a farm scale but at a catchment scale.

Healthy soils have good structure which includes proportions of organic matter, this benefits uptake and storage of nutrients for plant growth and effects capacity for the infiltration of rainfall, reducing run-off as well as acting as a Carbon sink.

These properties are therefore of interest to both the farmer and potentially other parties to support investment for environmental benefits (Ecosystem Services).

We are delighted that by coming together as a working group, we have been able to find a common issue and achievable solutions that benefit us all and many aspects of the environment.

Lee Haughton

Group Environmental Manager, Premier Foods

We continue to work with existing contacts, following successful connections with local business through promotional work – our online CPES FUND has been established to accommodate interest from funders of all scales, from individuals
to companies.

The CPES project provides local and tangible delivery which variously meets a number of interests, for water quality, soil health, Carbon sequestration, biodiversity or flood mitigation. 

Up to 70% of water bodies entering the Channel are currently rated as less than ‘Good’ Ecological Status for the EU Water Framework Directive.

The ultimate goal of the CPES project is to demonstrate that PES is a cost effective tool for solving diffuse pollution problems.

It presents an opportunity to develop new schemes by evaluating environmental conditions and identifying groups or organisations with a vested interest which could lead to the support of targeted local actions, hence rewarding positive outcomes.

Traditionally these are often delivered by land managers as part of their usual practice without reward, but PES approaches this from a different angle. 

Using two pilot areas in the South West; one a lake system, one a coastal system – the aim is to improve water quality entering the Channel via implementation of new, commercially sustainable catchment-wide schemes.

The project also brings together similar organisations to develop their interest in PES frameworks and a resources tool, to share knowledge and best practice between partners, countries and, ultimately, more widely such as feeding into policy.

Westcountry Rivers Trust has been involved in the development and delivery of Upstream Thinking (one of the original PES schemes) since its inception, whereby the water company South West Water is the buyer investing in drinking water protection across a number of strategic supply catchments.

You can read more about the project by clicking the links below:


CPES project presentation

Our two pilot areas were the Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary, South Devon, and Roadford Lake, near Launceston in Cornwall. We continue building on our existing knowledge of the catchments, creating new contacts and linking the project with other emerging activity such as Water Stewardship and private sector collaborations. Led by the University of Chichester, other UK partner organisations include Portsmouth Water, Southern Water, the Environment Agency and South Downs National Park Authority.

Find out more at: https://www.cpes-interreg.eu/en/cpes-project/our-pilot-sites/lake-roadford