Anglian Water Working To Deliver River Restoration Schemes
Utility company Anglian Water has teamed up with environmental consultants from Five Rivers, Binnies and Jackson to deliver 16 separate river restoration schemes, all designed to improve ecology and biodiversity, and restore unique river habitats.
More than £7 million is set to be invested in this particular eco programme, part of £300 million worth of fast-tracked funding that Anglian brought forward at the end of last year, as part of the government’s green recovery plans.
It’s estimated that by restoring targeted stretches of riverbed, there will be wider ecological benefits across up to 250km of river catchment, with restored healthy rivers delivering greater climate resilience, especially in drought-vulnerable regions like East Anglia.
Target areas include tributaries of the most iconic chalk streams to be found in the region, including those of the River Lark, the River Little Ouse, the River Wissey and the rivers Heacham and Gaywood.
Martin Bowes, Anglian Water’s water resources environment manager, explained that these schemes have been designed to reinstate the rivers’ natural processes, which have been lost through historical modification and river management.
He said: “The work will reinstall meanders, riffles, and gravel into the river beds, creating variation in river flows and protection against erosion.
“By changing the river’s shape – narrowing or shallowing some parts, we can increase habitat diversity and allow the river to function more how nature intended it to, and as importantly, without increasing the risk of flooding to local amenities, businesses or homes.”
Some 85 per cent of the world’s chalk streams can be found in southern and eastern England, renowned for their clear waters and diverse, thriving habitats. Other target areas that have been identified for restoration include the Broughton Brook, the East and West Glens, and the River Gwash.
Chalk streams are hugely important habitats for wildlife, supporting a range of plants and animals, and home to some of the most threatened species in the UK, such as the brown trout and water vole.
They flow from chalk aquifers, underground stores of water that replenish when it rains, providing essential drinking water for people across the south-east. Some water firms, such as Cambridge Water, rely entirely on these sources of water – but because of climate change and increasingly dry winters, the south-east has been experiencing ongoing drought.
When it’s dry, sections of chalk streams stop flowing, but low groundwater levels mean that longer stretches than normal are drying up. Businesses and farms also rely on chalk streams for water, without which they would not be able to operate – which would have a big impact on the economy, affecting people’s livelihoods and the availability of food.
As such, it is becoming increasingly important to identify alternative water supplies and sources, as well as reducing demand across the south-east – meaning that extensive infrastructure such as pipes and reservoirs will be required to transfer water around the UK.
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