What is Water Abstraction?
The process of water abstraction is complicated, but the impact is devastatingly simple – extracting water from the fen reduces the amount of alkaline water reaching it, not only threatening the water level but also changing the pH balance. Most of the protected plants, and the wildlife that thrives through them, cannot handle this change.
Farmers have used water abstraction to irrigate crops on land neighbouring Catfield Fen since 1986. As even small changes in water level and chemistry have a lasting impact on the ecosystem here, this practice needs to be looked at again by the official bodies to ensure that both the arable farming industry that relies on irrigation and the fen itself can benefit from a more responsible management of water.
Water abstraction for irrigation has led to a change of cropping in Norfolk and is really about yields and profits, not the survival of farming.
Many, if not most, farmers in the area have no abstraction licence, yet continue to thrive without one.