We continue to work with South West Water (SWW) to deliver the second phase of the Upstream Thinking (UST) initiative, running from 2015 to 2020.

According to recent research, 94% of surveyed farmers are pleased SWW is getting involved in helping them explore how to protect the environment through this catchment management project.

The survey, to measure satisfaction and perception, was commissioned by South West Water on behalf of the multi-award-winning Upstream Thinking project – a partnership of South West Water, Devon Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Westcountry Rivers Trust and Exmoor National Park Authority. It showed high levels of satisfaction for the project’s delivery partners across all aspects of service provided.

The Upstream Thinking partnership – an innovative project to promote environmentally sensitive farming and restore areas of habit including wetlands – is working to improve water quality in the region’s rivers through best practice in land management, supported by capital grants where appropriate.

In total, 110 interviews were conducted through a combination of online and telephone data collection methodology, with 51 respondents stating they had received grant funding from South West Water.

One in four of the farmers that were interviewed received other follow-up services, in addition to the farm grants offered. For example, farm advisors visited farms and carried out assessments resulting in a whole-farm plan. This includes a water management plan and future capital investment proposals, which could be up to 50% funded by Upstream Thinking.

These can comprise improvements to slurry or manure storage, fencing to keep livestock out of rivers, providing alternative water sources for livestock, and better soil or pesticide management.

Other services include free collection and disposal of obsolete pesticides, Countryside Stewardship applications, and nutrient management plans soil testing for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium. There is also the opportunity for access to specialist machinery such as aerators, which reduce compaction, encouraging infiltration, growth and sward recovery.

Over 60% of those interviewed stated they were very satisfied with the appropriateness of the suggested activities identified by the Upstream Thinking advisors, with 94% feeling satisfied or very satisfied with the usefulness of the plan to their business.

A farmer who took part in the survey said: “The advice we’ve received from the Upstream Thinking project has been first class and it’s good to be dealing with local people who know what our business is about.”

David Smith, South West Water’s Upstream Thinking Environment Manager, said: “South West Water is committed to supporting farmers and helping them manage their farms for cleaner fresh water in the catchments we operate within.

“This is beneficial to their businesses as well as ours and I’m delighted that this survey shows we are targeting our support into areas which farmers appreciate.”

Alex Inman, who conducted the survey, commented: “The results from this survey clearly illustrate that the project is delivering a personalised approach which is well received by the farming community.

“Farmers welcome the combination of South West Water and local delivery partner involvement and are well disposed to further engagement going forward including the adoption of woodland planting and other land use changes to help protect water resources.”

Since 2010, South West Water has worked to improve the water quality at 1,290 farms upstream of drinking water reservoirs and river abstractions. It has also restored 7,997 acres (3,236 hectares) of moorland, culm grass and other habitats.

Here at Westcountry Rivers Trust, we are delighted to see positive feedback about the project. Our farm advisors can provide a full evaluation of all aspects of your farm business. They will undertake a full farm survey, provide a farm plan and may be able to arrange funding to help you save money and protect the environment. Get in touch via our Contact page for more details.


  • Press release provided by South West Water.
  • The farmer satisfaction and perception survey was conducted by Alex Inman Consulting.
  • Surveys took place between 28 February and 17 April 2019.