Anglian Water is announcing plans to fast track £300 million of investment specifically targeted at environmental improvements, river restoration projects and wetland treatment schemes.
As part of the Government’s green recovery plans, the water company has been given the green light by Defra to begin work on more than 200 environmental schemes, a year earlier than planned. Much of the work will support the region’s unique chalk stream habitats and will come at no extra cost to customers.
The projects are part of Anglian’s Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP). Totalling £800million between 2020 and 2025, the company’s investment in protecting and enhancing the region’s environment is more than double that of the previous five years.
The water company will undertake a raft of schemes aimed at reducing the amount of phosphorus that enters the environment through the water recycling process. Chemicals like phosphorus come from urbanisation, domestic products like detergents, as well as from human and animal waste. They are particularly hard to remove from wastewater without using extensive, carbon-hungry treatment processes.
Other projects will focus on river restoration schemes across the region, including tributaries of the chalk rivers Lark and Little Ouse in Suffolk, and rivers Wissey, Gaywood and Heacham in Norfolk.
Anglian’s flagship treatment wetland is located on the River Ingol in North Norfolk
Typically, restoration projects reinstate natural river features such as meanders, gravel beds and riffles to encourage native species and increase biodiversity.
Peter Simpson, CEO for Anglian Water, said: "This is fantastic news for our region’s environment. By taking this decision a year early Government has given us more time to maximise the environmental benefit in some of the most sensitive parts of our region.
“Balancing the demands of our customers with the needs of the environment is something we take incredibly seriously. As we begin to plan our recovery from COVID 19, our responsibility to bring environmental and social prosperity to our region has never been clearer. This is our opportunity to focus resources on enabling the greenest recovery possible, something we know is so important to our customers.
“We know this work will have a significant and positive impact on chalk stream biodiversity, and the local communities who enjoy these special watercourses. We estimate these schemes will support around 600 jobs in our supply chain.
“Through partnerships with environmental organisations like Rivers Trusts and Wildlife Trusts, we hope to take forward the 34 treatment wetlands and various river restoration schemes in the list.”
Anglian’s flagship treatment wetland is located on the River Ingol in North Norfolk. The scheme was completed in 2018. The site was the first of its kind in England, created in partnership with the Norfolk Rivers Trust. It works as a natural treatment plant for millions of litres of water a day. Used but treated water passes through the wetland to be further filtered and cleaned by the wetland plants before it’s returned to the River Ingol.
This additional, natural filtering process further improves the quality of water being returned to the river, benefiting the whole of the river. Aside from having a practical purpose, the wetland is a huge biodiversity asset, attracting breeding birds, amphibians, bats and water voles to the local environment. In 2018, Anglian identified opportunities to create up to 34 more sites across the region.