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Wensum Alliance

The Wensum Alliance demonstration test catchment - reducing water pollution whilst maintaining agricultural output in East Anglia.

Applications to farmland such as fertiliser, herbicides and pesticides can be washed over or through the soil and sooner or later will reach watercourses. Improved farm management can reduce the amount of pollution reaching the waterways. The River Wensum is a chalk fed river in Norfolk, England and is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation.

The Wensum Alliance assesses the effectiveness of land management measures aimed at reducing diffuse pollution from agricultural activities across the whole river catchment; undertakes extensive monitoring of the effectiveness of these and at the same time uses local expertise to solve local problems. The Wensum Alliance uses state-of-the-art measuring devices for long-term monitoring to both identify and record pollutants and to evaluate the effectiveness of measures to reduce pollution. Members of the Wensum Alliance are evaluating the effectiveness of the various measures undertaken and developing recommendations that will help refine future agri-environmental policy to reduce pollution further.

Land management measures aimed at reducing diffuse pollution include:

  • Land use – e.g. converting vulnerable areas of land to uses with lower fertiliser/pesticide requirements.
  • Soil management – e.g. to reduce compaction, maintain ditches and drainage.
  • Adopt minimal cultivation systems; retain stubble; plant cover crops.
  • Farm infrastructure – e.g. fence off waterways from livestock; establish sediment traps; improve/ cover slurry and manure storage; control waste water
  • Livestock management – e.g. avoid poaching; reduce stocking rates on wet fields; improve livestock housing ; modify grazing regime; modify livestock feed
  • Fertiliser/nutrient management – e.g. use precision technology to minimise excess applications; analyse soils regularly; use clover in place of grass.
  • Manure management – e.g. modify manure application; site heaps away from watercourses; improve effluent/manure storage
  • Crop protection  – e.g. adopt recognised crop protection management plan.
  • Monitoring


The project involves scientists and representatives from watershed alliances from other parts of the world, local land owners and managers and representatives from a wide range of organisations that work in the Wensum area, and team of researchers drawn from universities, research organisations and private consultancies.


UEA Team

Professor Kevin Hiscock, Project Leader

Professor Andrew Lovett, Project Leader


Salle Farms Co.




Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Environment Agency

Welsh Assembly Government Initiative


DEFRAEnvironment AgencyWelsh Assembly