Water Industry News

Thames Water Embarks On Tiny Forest Pilot Project

Utility company Thames Water has embarked upon a pilot project involving tiny forests, native woodland that is especially fast-growing and dense, capable of attracting more than 500 animal and plant species within the first three years of planting.


Thus far, 1,200 trees have been planted at Thames Water’s treatment works in Speen in Newbury, with the water supplier committing to reaching net zero carbon emissions across its entire operational base by 2030.


Newbury is, in fact, the first place in Berkshire to have a tiny forest planted, with Thames Water partnering with Earthwatch Europe to see the 1,200 trees planted onsite in March of this year.


Tiny forests themselves are based on a forest management method developed by Dr Akira Miyawaki in the 1970s, with studies showing that this innovative planting technique can attract all sorts of wildlife and plants in the first few years. There are 600 trees in each tiny forest, which is the size of a tennis court.


The Newbury forest was used by Earthwatch to test how effective different soil preparation methods are, with each one prepared with a different technique before planting. The difference that this has on tree growth, soil conditions, forest biodiversity and thermal comfort is being monitored, with results expected next summer.


Becky Elliot, Thames Water ecologist, said: “Through our innovative study, we’re quantifying just how important Tiny Forests are in creating habitats that bring multiple benefits to urban areas, particularly where land available for tree planting is limited.


“Such co-benefits include increasing biodiversity and capturing and storing carbon, while educating and reconnecting people with nature. Taking care of the environment and communities we work in is really important to us and I’m thrilled we’ve brought this innovative tree planting method to Newbury.


“We’re committed to boosting biodiversity across our waste and water treatment sites, planting more trees and working in partnership with local communities as we find new ways to achieve our net zero ambitions over the next ten years.”


Other sustainability work being carried out by the company includes the launch of a new Chalk Stream Restoration Strategy, calling for all such streams in England to be given enhanced environmental status.


Published by the Chalk Stream Restoration Working Group, the strategy features a series of recommendations to protect and restore these rare waterways, with priority status intended to drive investment to prevent over-abstraction and pollution, while restoring habitats to boost local biodiversity.


There are more than 280 chalk streams to be found in England, as well as dozens of smaller waterways that form when rainwater falls on chalk hills, filters through rock and results in springs of cool alkaline, mineral-rich water.


Thames Water has already made various commitments to protect these chalk streams, including stopping all abstraction from Hawridge on the River Chess by the end of 2024 and increasing capacity at its Chesham sewage works by 30 per cent by 2023.


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