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Fowey River Improvement

  Fowey River Improvement Auction

Dr Ruth Welters and Professor Brett Day (now at Exeter LEEP Institute), worked with South West Water as part of their Upstream Thinking initiative and with the Westcountry Rivers Trust to explore the design of a Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme.

The Fowey River Improvement Auction was carried out in Summer 2012 and the final report was published in October 2013. The work will be of interest to land managers, water companies and government agencies.


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Designing a payments for ecosystem services auction

The River Fowey is the source of the majority of Cornwall’s drinking water but suffers from sediment, nutrient and pesticide pollution, primarily emanating from farming activities. That pollution is a big problem for the regional water company, South West Water. In order to provide their customers with safe drinking water, the company incurs substantial costs treating water abstracted from the river.

Calculations suggest that the cost to farmers of reducing pollution at source may be significantly less than the costs of cleaning up that pollution at the water treatment works. Accordingly, the River Fowey catchment provides fertile ground for trialing a payment for ecosystems services  mechanism. In such a mechanism South West Water would directly pay farmers to make changes to their farm infrastructure and land management practices in ways which improve river water quality. Those payments, it is hoped, would be more than offset by reductions in treatment costs.


Contact: Ruth Welters



The research was funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

With additional support for Dr Ruth Welters from the Natural Environment Research Council Business Internship scheme.