Much of the Middle Level Commissioners’ 70,000 ha catchment area contains fertile arable land which is capable of growing valuable high yielding root and vegetable crops, such as potatoes, onions, carrots and leeks.
The majority of this produce is destined for supermarket shelves and vegetable processors. The quality and marketability of the produce leaving the field is of paramount importance to the growers.
During the spring and summer months, water is abstracted from the Middle Level Commissioners’ and Internal Drainage Boards’ watercourses, by growers, to irrigate such crops when there is a lack of natural rainfall. A licenced system for water abstraction is administered and controlled by the Environment Agency.
The Commissioners work in partnership with the Environment Agency to provide the necessary water resources that abstractors require; by way of utilising the Middle Level system of water channels and constituent Internal Drainage Board drains. These are used as ‘conduits’ for water flows, from the Environment Agency controlled River Nene at Peterborough, through the inlet sluice at the Commissioners’ Stanground Lock, to the licenced abstractors throughout the Middle Level catchment area.
A text messaging system is operated during peak times of water abstraction. The text messages relay information to Internal Drainage Board officers and inlet slacker (penstock) attendants about water availability and general level trends within the Middle Level Commissioners’ arterial system. The system works extremely well and is reliant upon close co-operation.
It is without doubt due to this close collaborative working partnership, that water resources are maximised to their fullest extent.