UWE Bristol Researchers work with National Allotment Society to share knowledge about water and drought

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DRY Project

A group of UWE Bristol researchers, Dr Neil Phillips, Dr Sarah Ayling and Professor Lindsey McEwen have been been working with the National Allotment Society (NAS) to promote water efficient behaviours and drought resilience on allotments.

Professor McEwen leads on the NERC DRY (Drought Risk and You) project which explores how droughts and water shortage can impact on the environment, agriculture, infrastructure, society and culture.

The DRY project was founded in April 2014, with the aim to develop an easy-to-use, evidence-based resource to inform decision-making for drought risk management in the UK. They draw together information from multiple perspectives on drought science, stakeholder engagement, citizen science and narrative storytelling to better understand drought risks, while other studies have focused on mathematical modelling of drought risk.  They gather data, stories and deliver events and provide workshops to support their mission.

During the DRY project they started to appreciate the potential of growers to act as harbingers of drought in their communities – being sensitive to available water for plants and hence periods without rainfall and to dry soils. They concluded that growers and allotment holders are therefore great potential contributors to ‘drought thinking’ in their communities, which is important in building local resilience to future drought and water scarcity.

As a result of this DRY and the National Allotment Society have co-produced a set of seven fliers that share knowledge about water and drought. These were launched by NAS in National Allotments Week 2021 (9-15 August).

The titles are:

Neil Phillips also took part in a webinar “Water Harvesting on Allotments, with Climate Change in mind” as part of the National Allotment Week , which was well attended by keen growers from across the country.

He said:  

“The presentation and subsequent discussion supported new thinking and debate around rainwater collection and use on allotments. Attendees expressed particular concerns over the use of sprinklers on some allotment sites (sprinklers can waste up to 90% of the mains water) and the likelihood of water companies increasing water charges in the near future. The importance of encouraging water efficient growing methods and considering local conditions was emphasized. The potential to extract water from other sources such as wells, rivers and lakes via solar-powered pumps was considered. There was considerable interest in optimised rainwater collection, storage and distribution structures as a novel solution with requests for detailed costings and evaluation via an onsite trial. “