What's the problem
The land we own around our reservoirs not only provides the water we rely on it is also used for agricultural purposes by tenant farmers for food production. As well as providing a home to some of the UK's most amazing wildlife. Much of this land is home to nationally significant habitats for animals and plants and rare species of birds such as the Hen Harrier. In fact around 17,000 hetares is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
However, many of the fragile habitats in our upland catchment areas have been damaged by historical industrial air pollution and agricultural activities. Agricultural policies have encouraged farmers to drain the land and put more livestock on the fells. This has been at the expense of water quality, the landscape and wildlife. At the start of the century large areas of SSSI were designated by Natural England as in unfavourable and declining condition.
Years of drainage of the UK uplands has caused 5,000 year old peat bogs to dry out and erode releasing colour and sediment into watercourses and millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere contributing to climate change.
Over the last thirty years there has been a substantial increase in the levels of colour in the water sources prior to treatment from many upland catchments. The removal of colour requires additional treatment plant, chemicals, power and waste handling to meet increasingly demanding drinking water quality standards. To address this expensive capital solutions are often required at our water treatment works which result in significant increases in annual operational costs.
In order to stabilise or reverse this trend it is necessary to restore the hydrological function of the peat soils by re-wetting the upland areas and re-vegetating bare peat. Achieving this will:-
- help to provide cleaner water to our reservoirs
- restore the natural habitat and the plants and animal that rely on it
- allow the moorland habitat will become more resilient to long term climate change
- enable active peat forming vegetation to increase the rate at which these areas can absorb carbon from the atmosphere
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