Utility company Thames Water has launched its Smarter Water Catchments Initiative for the River Evenlode, with the aim being to improve the water quality of waterways across Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
At the official launch event at Magpie Farm in Chipping Norton on October 22nd, guests saw new wetland habitats that have been created by the Evenlode Catchment Partnership, designed to reduce phosphorus runoff from farmland, as well as boosting biodiversity and creating natural flood management.
Part of the £3 million project will also see improvements made at a local sewage treatment works, intended to ensure that the River Evenlode can hit its phosphorus river quality objectives.
Included in the plans is a ten-year commitment to help the Evenlode achieve Good Ecological Status, boost biodiversity and address water quality issues, while providing wider community benefits through natural flood management schemes, better access, health and wellbeing, volunteering opportunities and programmes for schools.
High phosphorus levels in rivers can enrich the water, resulting in algae blooms in spring and summer, which then can severely affect the diversity and quantity of fish and insects.
Future projects for the Evenlode include encouraging water-sensitive farming, identifying sustainable solutions to the impact of sewage treatments work processes, developing further wetland creation schemes, focusing on water quality monitoring and wet grassland surveys, and installing natural flood management schemes such as 27 woody dams and 14 retention ponds.
Richard Aylard, sustainability director with Thames Water, said: “We are keen to play our full part in protecting and enhancing our precious rivers and streams – while there is still a long way to go, the ambition is clear.
“Working in partnership with local stakeholders, we’ve set out our collective plans to improve the Evenlode’s Ecological Status by reducing pollution, restoring physical habitats and improving water quality.”
Similarly, Anglian Water recently unveiled its own plans for a £7 million river restoration scheme covering 16 locations in the region, with the aim being to bring unique river habitats back to life, improving ecology and biodiversity.
The utility company estimates that the restoration of targeted stretches of riverbed will deliver wider ecological benefits across up to 250km of river catchment. Target areas include tributaries of the east of England’s chalk streams, including those to be found in the River Lark, the River Little Ouse, the River Wissey and the rivers Heacham and Gaywood.
The recent State of Our Rivers report from the Rivers Trust revealed how important restored healthy rivers are for climate change resilience, particularly in parts of the country that are especially vulnerable to drought, such as East Anglia.
Anglian Water’s project will reinstall the riverbeds’ meanders, riffles and gravel, which will then protect against erosion and create variation in river flows.