Water projects set to boost natural eco-system

Peter Simpson, chief executive of Anglian Water. Picture: Tim George.

Peter Simpson, chief executive of Anglian Water. Picture: Tim George. - Credit: Archant

A flourishing natural world is inseparable from a healthy water supply, and efforts are under way across East Anglia to ensure a strong eco-system for the benefit of the environment, wildlife and humans.

Anglian Water volunteers have been counting bats at the Beccles water recycling centre. Picture : Su

Anglian Water volunteers have been counting bats at the Beccles water recycling centre. Picture : Supplied - Credit: Archant

At the heart of the eco-system is water – and each needs to be healthy for the other to thrive.

'Our business depends on a healthy environment,' says Peter Simpson, chief executive of Anglian Water, which supplies six million customers in the eastern counties as well as managing almost 3,000 hectares of Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

'We also know a healthy and thriving environment improves people's quality of life and supports a thriving economy.

'Caring for the environment we all rely on and enjoy, and caring for communities we serve is an intrinsic part of what we do as a company.'

Anglian Water's biodiversity wishlist

Anglian Water's biodiversity wishlist - Credit: Archant

'Anglian Water owns and manage a great deal of land, much of it of value to wildlife, including 47 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Of these, 98.8pc are judged to be in favourable condition by Natural England, the government's nature conservation advisor and natural environment regulator, compared with England as a whole, where just 38.6pc of SSSIs were in favourable condition by March 2017.'

The approach has led to a series of partnership agreements across East Anglia to support eco-systems and protect wildlife. In addition, the company has introduced a new Flourishing Environment grant scheme worth up to £40,000 a year in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to support local communities in protecting wetland wildlife.

Most Read

Wetland wildlife was chosen after stakeholders urged the company to focus its environmental plans here during a consultation on a new biodiversity strategy in 2015.

But these projects aim to do more than simply help wildlife. A recent chalk stream restoration project funded at Costessey outside Norwich, for example, will also help to improve water quality, make the area more attractive to visitors and expand opportunities for angling.

Nightingale fitted with GPS tag at Alton Water Reservoir. Picture: Anglian Water

Nightingale fitted with GPS tag at Alton Water Reservoir. Picture: Anglian Water - Credit: Anglian Water

Anglian Water also recently announced half a million pounds funding for a new one-hectare wetland near Ingoldisthorpe to provide additional filtering of treated water, protecting the watercourse and wildlife from excessive algal growth.

The business is also working with farmers to manage rivers and the land they drain in a joined-up way for multiple benefits. Together with The Rivers Trust, it has hosted a catchment partnership overseeing work in the Cam and Ely Ouse area.

A recent highlight was the partnership's WaterLIFE project, explaining to farmers what they can do to protect water quality by changing the way they manage the land.

'The need to protect the environment, combined with our low rainfall, means that in many places we will have to take less water from rivers and aquifers to treat and supply – which could mean we have more than 150m litres a day less water available by 2025,' says Mr Simpson.

'We are working to ensure that our abstraction from rivers and aquifers is sustainable, investing in river restoration projects, reducing pollutions through continual investment in our water recycling operation and protecting raw water quality with our catchment management approach – working in partnership with agriculture and other land owners.'

Barry Bendall, water and land director with the Rivers Trust, adds: 'We all benefit from a healthy water environment and so it is important for Anglian Water to support approaches that deliver wider environmental outcomes such as biodiversity, alongside the supply of sufficient clean drinking water to society.

'We are very pleased to partner with Anglian Water on various catchment initiatives, aiming to achieve this by recognising the importance of partnerships and natural capital.'

A number of schemes are either planned or under way to reduce the effect of our operations on the environment, including the impact of water abstraction from rivers and groundwaters.

Work is under way to improve the condition of the River Wensum, Coston Fen and a range of coastal marshes fed by water from the north Norfolk chalk aquifer, as well as the River Nar in the north-west of the county,

Protecting the quality of bathing water is also part of the brief, with a coastal water protection team working with councils, the Environment Agency, local businesses and residents' groups to identify and address sources of pollution.

Anglian Water is also committed to tackling global issues such as carbon emissions, and striving to become carbon neutral by 2050, by:

•Rethinking engineering solutions to halve carbon in the assets it builds.

•Reducing the energy and materials used to maintain its infrastructure.

•Generating its own renewable energy.

•Increasing the efficiency of its equipment and operations.

•Reducing waste and finding uses for the by-products of treatment processes 'in pursuit of a truly circular economy', such as sewage sludge which is heated and •treated to convert it to a rich soil fertiliser for farmland, a process which generates clean energy as part of the process.

Nature's water treatment plant

Schemes aimed at promoting biodiversity are under way across the eastern counties in a bid to help the natural environment – but with a spin-off that benefits millions of human water consumers.

In west Norfolk, a new

wetland is set to be created, which will act as a natural treatment plant for more a million litres of water a day – a first for any water company in the country.

Funded by the region's main water supplier Anglian Water to the tune of £500,000 and created in partnership with Norfolk Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency, the one-hectare site will see used but treated water pass through the wetland to be further filtered and cleaned before being returned to the environment in the River Ingol.

Anglian Water chief executive Peter Simpson said: 'Wetland treatment enables us to treat used water to the same high standards as our conventional water recycling centres while vastly reducing our carbon footprint, costs and most importantly, enhancing the

local environment and ecosystems.'

In a more hands-on demonstration of the company's and the community's commitment to the environment, earlier this summer Anglian Water in Norwich customers were out by the River Wensum removing the invasive Himalayan Balsam weed, which can alter the biodiversity of the river bank and damage local wildlife and plant life, as part of AW's RiverCare project.

Meanwhile, just south of Ipswich at Anglian Water's Alton Water reservoir, the company has been working in partnership with the Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to unravel the mystery migration

of one of the UK's most elusive and threatened birds, the nightingale.

Last year, a bird was discovered at Alton, the biggest area of inland water in Suffolk, which had been ringed the Gambia. Mike Drew, Anglian Water wildlife scientist, said: 'This discovery will help us gain real insights into the migration of this enigmatic bird.'

Further north, on the River Waveney, Anglian Water employees have volunteered their evenings to help monitor the bats at the company's water recycling centre in Beccles for the national bat monitoring programme surveys.

Kylie Jones, Anglian Water's biodiversity scientist, said: 'Our highest count of bats was at our Beccles recycling centre where we've recorded 278 pipistrelle bats in one evening. At Anglian Water we recognise that the environment plays an integral role in the services we provide.'


Anglian Water, the region's main supplier, has been staging a week-long exhibition at The Forum in Norwich.

H2OMG is a showcase for the company's work in maximising the efficient use of water, an opportunity for the public to see how we can all help to safeguard supplies, and a chance to have a say in how we feel about Anglian Water's service and how it should spend our hard earned bill money in future.

Carolyn Cooksey, head of regulatory customer engagement, said: 'What our customers tell us will have an influence on our long term business plan. And the more people that take part, the surer we can be that our plan deals with the issues our customers care about.

'We face a wide range of challenges. The amount of water available remains the same and may even decline.

'So it's essential we speak to customers to get their opinions to overcome these challenges and protect the environment and keep taps running.'

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter