Valuable dredged Broads sediment has many uses

Dredging on the River Bure. Picture: Broads Authority

Dredging on the River Bure. Picture: Broads Authority - Credit: Archant

One of the Broads' most valuable resources - sediment dredged from the waterways - is being used in a variety of ways to enhance the natural habitat and also improve agriculture.

Use of sediment dredged from rivers and broads in agriculture.
Dan Hoare with a piece of sediment.

Use of sediment dredged from rivers and broads in agriculture. Dan Hoare with a piece of sediment. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

Every year the Broads Authority dredges the navigable waterways at their shallowest points.

The dredged sediment is a rich solution of soil which has eroded from the catchment and riverbanks, accumulating over time.

This bi-product has multiple sustainable uses which the authority works with partners to re-use in three key ways: to build new habitats; to enhance flood bank protection; and to act as a soil enhancer on agricultural land.

Rivers engineer Tom Hunter said: 'Dredged sediment is regulated as a waste, but we know it is a soil and a useful resource, much of which originates from erosion of the banks and land within the catchment.'

Photo: Archant Library

Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library


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Local farmers can particularly benefit from using the sediment as a top soil due to its high organic content and beneficial nutrient levels.

This process recycles key nutrients back into the soil enhancing future crop productivity for the land owner.

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Environmentally, there have been several great successes in the re-use of sediment such as the complete re-building of reed beds at Duck Broad by pumping dredged sediment into contained areas within the broad to re-create lost islands or bays of reed-swamp.

This has had a positive result for reed dwelling wildlife such as the rare bittern, as well as protecting the bank side from erosion.

Broads Authority head of construction, maintenance and environment, Dan Hoare, said: 'To sustainably manage the Broads' waterways and catchment we need to continue to work with other public organisations and landowners to beneficially re-use the sediment that does find its way into the rivers and broads.'

The Environment Agency, which is responsible for much of the flood bank protection, has also used the sediment for crest raising and strengthening of flood banks.

The alternative uses of the sediment have proved a successful venture in sustainability with local landowners, the environment and the native species of the Broads all benefiting from the bi-product of improved navigational channels.

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