Diffuse water pollution from agriculture is a significant pressure to manage in river basin management, particularly when chemicals used by farmers could enter potable water supplies. In the agriculture-intensive eastern region of England, where the UK GLOBAQUA case study is located, pesticides carried by surface runoff can easily find their way to potable water supplies.

Metaldehyde is a molluscicide used by farmers to protect crops such as cereal and oilseed rape from slug damage, that runs off readily from fields and enters surface water bodies where often it can be present at drinking water capitation sites at elevated levels. Considering the EU Drinking Water Directive’s (EC98/83/EC) stringent limit of 0.1 µg/l and 0.5 µg/l for individual and total pesticides respectively for treated potable water, this has emerged as a treatment challenge for the UK the water industry and for the river basin management plans required under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Doing her PhD at Imperial College on the policy implications of the WFD under the supervision of Professor Nick Voulvoulis, Iman Ibrahim has been working with the Anglian Water, supporting them to take on a catchment advisory role and actively engage with the agricultural community within the region to encourage behavioural changes and the implementation of best practices to reduce pollution at source.

Slug it Out was the campaign launched by Anglian Water in 2015, a metaldehyde substitution trial investigating the effects of total removal of agricultural sources of metaldehyde from natural catchments. Farmers participating in this trial have been incentivised to use alternative molluscicides such as ferric phosphate, and encouraged to adopt best practices to minimise slug burden.

Her research aims to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach and make recommendations on its potential application to address the pesticide challenge in the UK, offering the know-how, with catchment management to allow for the paradigm shift required for the implantation of the WFD.

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