The Environment Agency produced the film ‘Future Farming in the Axe Catchment” to showcase this project.

Since 2016, the Environment Agency has been working with farmers in the River Axe catchment to improve compliance with environmental legislation, ultimately aiming to restore the River Axe to its former quality.

Although the River Axe is a Special Area of Conservation, intense farming practices in recent decades mean that the river is in poor condition. High clay content in the soil means it is vulnerable to compaction from heavy machinery, generating runoff from rainfall containing phosphates, nutrients and dung – this washes away from the farm and interferes with the River Axe’s sensitive ecosystem.

To combat this, the Environment Agency has been evaluating farms’ compliance with environmental regulations, and working with them to make simple short and long term improvements to protect the environment. This can include actions such as preventing rainwater from draining into a slurry store, or changing to a grass-based system of feed.

These actions can help both mitigate carbon emissions now, and adapt to a changing climate in the future: improving water quality in river habitats like the River Axe can help them store more carbon, and increased rainfall as the climate changes means improving soil quality is crucial to store more water and reduce flood risk.

How is this helping Devon reach net-zero?

Action F22. Work with the government to increase funding to enhance the effectiveness of the Catchment Based Approach, which provides coordination of conservation measures between landowners and potential funders at a catchment scale for improved water quality and nature.