Project to target polluters of waterways in the South Downs

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HUGE investment is being made into tackling water pollution from South Downs chalk hills.

The South Downs National Park Authority, Environment Agency and the Downs and Harbours Clean Water Partnership have joined together in an £80,000 project to identify pollution in the national park area – most of which comes from the use of agricultural fertilisers.

In the south east 1.2m people rely on water from the chalk hills, which should naturally be of very high quality. But, because of the nitrates, a considerable amount of money is spent on treating it before it can be used.

Andrew Lee is director of strategy and partnerships for the South Downs National Park Authority.

He said: ‘The iconic chalk hills of the South Downs act as a huge sponge which filters and stores rainwater, feeds rivers and streams, supports wildlife and provides fresh water for people and industry.

‘We want to identify exactly where the nitrate pollution is coming from and then work with farmers to find better ways to tackle it.

‘For example, supporting farmers to introduce more sustainable land use in key sites could be more cost-effective for water companies than paying to remove the nitrates later on.’