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April 10, 2018

How the water utility sector is helping the environment

Water is unquestionably our most precious resource and, with World Environment Day happening this month, we feel now is the perfect time to focus on the efforts being made by the water utility sector to help protect the environment.

In a statement given in A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, Prime Minister Theresa May states: “The United Kingdom is blessed with a wonderful variety of natural landscapes and habitats and our 25 Year Environment Plan sets out our comprehensive and long-term approach to protecting and enhancing them in England for the next generation.

“Its goals are simple: cleaner air and water; plants and animals which are thriving; and a cleaner, greener country for us all.”

So, what exactly is being done by water companies to reach these targets and ensure the water industry is doing its part to help the planet?

Leakage levels down by a third

As it is estimated that around just 3% of the world’s water is safe for human consumption, every drop counts. That’s why wastage by way of preventable things such as leakage is a constant concern in the water utility sector. This is something that the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan aims to address.

According to Ofwat, leakages are down by roughly a third from their highest recorded levels (1994-1995). To ensure acceptable levels are maintained, water companies are set targets on an individual basis and can face repercussions if those targets are not met.

Essex & Suffolk Water investing money in wildlife

In a £150 million project, Essex & Suffolk Water has enlarged Abberton Reservoir by 58%. The project has greatly benefitted the area’s wildlife by increasing the amount of shallow water habitat which is crucial for birds in the area.

Sir David Attenborough was invited to mark the completion of the project.

“I can remember a time when nature conservation and development were seen to be in opposition – you either developed or conserved – and that led to confrontation,” said Sir David. “Here at Abberton Reservoir this is fundamentally, extraordinarily and wonderfully different.”

Yorkshire Water’s pledge to plant one million trees

Trees are a beneficial part of many natural habitats for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they act as a natural flood defence. This is because dense woodland can act as a barrier to floodwater, while trees also prevent soil erosion, thus reducing sediment going into rivers and increasing water absorption into the ground.

In January this year, Yorkshire Water’s Chief Executive Richard Flint made a pledge to plant one million trees across his company’s northern county over the next 10 years. The aim will be to reduce flood risk, offset carbon emissions and support the creation of a northern forest.

“As one of Yorkshire’s biggest landowners we need to make sure that we manage our land in a way that makes the most of the benefits that a healthy natural environment can provide,” said Flint upon making the pledge.

Treating and managing wastewater

It is estimated that it takes just one litre of untreated wastewater to pollute eight litres of clean water. Wastewater treatment is therefore hugely important for human wellbeing, and is also beneficial for the environment as a whole as it protect plants and animals from consuming unsanitary water.

Wastewater treatment is essential for getting the most out of our water supply as the water from treatment plants can be reused to treat areas in need of clean water.