Water Focus – Affinity Water Sponsor Groundswell 2022

Written by Shaun Dowman, Agricultural Advisor at Affinity Water

Affinity Water are a public water supply company, serving over 3.5 million people in the south-east of England.

For the 5th year running, Affinity Water will be the headline sponsor of Groundswell, something that’s become an important date in our diary.

It will be no surprise to many of you that the relationship between soil and water is important, not only for your farming system but also the environment. We have all seen images of soil laden water running off agricultural fields straight into rivers turning them muddy brown. Luckily these sorts of incidents are relatively rare but can happen if soil health is not given the priority it deserves. I am sure you have also seen how regeneratively farmed soils respond under the ever-increasing heavy downpours that we experience and will continue to experience at greater frequency.

These healthy soils act more like a sponge, accepting the rainfall and directing it down into the soil and aquifers rather than running off the surface. Walking over these fields a few hours later your boots stay clean and evidence of the heavy shower becomes a distant memory. Compare this to a ploughed field, low in organic matter where the impact of one heavy rainfall event can last a whole season where the soil remains capped and is less able to accept water when the next inevitable downpour rattles by. Improving water infiltration is not only good for the rivers and groundwater’s but also for your farming system.

As heavy downpours are becoming ever more frequent, so are the extended periods of drought that risk your crops, water supplies and the environment. If you build organic matter in your soil, then you hold onto more water that may help you through the next period of drought. You all know this, and I believe it is a big part of the motivation for many farmers going down a regenerative route, building resilience in an everchanging climate. This soil/water relationship is explained with far greater impact and eloquence than I can do with words by the rainfall simulator that is demonstrated at Groundswell. Five different soil pans, under different management are exposed to a simulated heavy rainfall event and you get to see how much infiltrates and how much runs off the surface, taking valuable soil with it. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend attending one of the sessions at this year’s event in the big top.

But Groundswell is about more than soil and water with sessions and stands that focus on biodiversity, health and well-being, nutrition, community, and climate change but at its core Groundswell is a show by farmers for farmers. We, as sponsors, can only hope to bask in the reflected glow of Groundswell, but I hope that through us supporting and backing this event we help build its credibility and help spread the messages both within our industry and beyond.

So, if you are attending Groundswell this year do come and see us at the Affinity Water catchment hub which will be by the Big Top. Again, we’ll be handing out our free souvenir water bottles, and we will also be displaying our latest soil research projects and we will be joined by Freestation who will be demonstrating their soil and environmental monitors. I am also chairing a session on Multi-species cover crops at 4pm on the Wednesday in the Kellogg’s Origins Soils Tent. I’ll be joined by three excellent speakers: Tom Sizmur from the University of Reading, Ian Gould from Oakbank and Ian Waller from Hampden Bottom Farm, do come and join us.

With less than a month to go I know the Groundswell team are busy putting together the final touches to the programme, which looks the most interesting and extensive yet. Groundswell really is the friendliest, most interesting, and fun farming show out there, so if you’ve not been before I’d recommend you breath it all in, keep an open mind, pull up a pew and have a fantastic two days.

Shaun Dowman, Agricultural Advisor, Affinity Water