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Anglian Water to create new wetlands in Suffolk as part of £50m programme to protect region's rivers



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New wetlands are set to be created in Suffolk as part of a programme aimed at protecting rivers across the region.

Anglian Water has today unveiled the plans for what it has described as the UK's most ambitious new wetland programme, which will see 26 new wetlands created across the East of England.

In total, the initiative will see the water company invest more than £50 million between now and the end of the decade in the work, with the first three wetlands near Charsfield and Cotton in Suffolk and Stagsden in Bedfordshire planned to get underway early next year.

The wetland projects will be modelled on Anglian Water's flagship River Ingol wetland, near Ingoldisthorpe in Norfolk, which was the first of its kind in England when it launched in 2019
The wetland projects will be modelled on Anglian Water's flagship River Ingol wetland, near Ingoldisthorpe in Norfolk, which was the first of its kind in England when it launched in 2019

The programme forms part of Anglian Water's recently launched Get River Positive commitment, with the company pledging work to restore river habitats in the region.

The proposals are also set to help protect some of the chalk stream habitats in the area.

Get River Positive, which was launched by Anglian Water and Severn Trent earlier this year, includes five pledges to transform river water quality across their regions, which the companies say 'demonstrates a clear and actionable response to calls for a revival of rivers in England'.

Aerial shots of the wetland area near the Anglian Water treatment works in Ingoldisthorpe in North Norfolk. Picture: Matthew Power Photography/Anglian Water
Aerial shots of the wetland area near the Anglian Water treatment works in Ingoldisthorpe in North Norfolk. Picture: Matthew Power Photography/Anglian Water

At the heart of the pledges is a commitment that work carried out by the two water companies will ensure storm overflows and sewage treatment works do not harm rivers.

Alongside the three wetlands planned to start early in 2023, the remaining 23 are in the final stages of feasibility work to identify the most suitable locations available to benefit the environment.

The first three will be delivered in partnership with environmental engineering experts across the region.

The wetland projects will be modelled on Anglian Water's flagship River Ingol wetland, which it launched in 2019. The site, near Ingoldisthorpe in Norfolk, was the first of its kind in England.

The wetland at Ingoldisthorpe. Picture: Anglian Water
The wetland at Ingoldisthorpe. Picture: Anglian Water

Created in partnership with the Norfolk Rivers Trust, the wetland has since operated as a natural treatment plant for millions of litres of water, as well as becoming a 'beautiful habitat and a flourishing haven for wildlife'.

An Anglian Water spokesperson said the wetlands initiative is a 'major step forward to improving resilience through the power of nature without the need for carbon-hungry infrastructure and additional chemical usage'.

Dr Robin Price, director of quality and the environment for Anglian Water said: "This is a hugely ambitious programme, the scale of which has never before been delivered by a water company in the UK.

“Our wetland programme at Ingoldisthorpe has provided a blueprint which we can now roll out across the region.

"Nature-based solutions are a key part of our vision for the future: not only providing vital services to our customers and meeting the demands of our ever growing population, but doing so in a way that benefits, wildlife, the environment and local communities too."

And Mark Lloyd, chief executive of The Rivers Trust said the charity was 'delighted' to see Anglian Water's ambition to deliver improved water quality while also providing space for nature and helping reduce carbon emissions.

"This very welcome focus on nature-based solutions provides so many more benefits for society than traditional water treatment processes, which only have one output," he said.

"The Rivers Trust movement looks forward to working in partnership with Anglian Water to help make these ambitious plans a reality.”

Anglian Water experts explain how wetlands work

"Treatment wetlands work by taking used but treated water from water recycling centres and passing it through a series of interconnected ponds planted with native wetland species such as iris, sedges, rush, marsh marigold and watercress.

"The wetland plants naturally clean the water, removing ammonia and phosphate before it goes back into the nearby river.

"Although Anglian Water’s existing water recycling processes already remove the majority of these substances in line with tight environmental permits issued by the Environment Agency, the wetlands work to treat the water even further, removing the need for expensive, carbon-intensive infrastructure and the chemical dosing which is conventionally used.

"Not only do the wetlands have a practical purpose, they are a huge biodiversity asset and attract lots of local wildlife.

"In 2019, the water company and local primary school held a bio-blitz our site on the Ingol and found over 200 species of plants, animals and insects including a large variety of butterflies, dragonflies and other aquatic invertebrates, yellowhammers and spotted flycatchers.

"Footage of a water vole was also recorded using trail cams."

Dr Price added: “We know this work will have a significant and positive impact on our river’s biodiversity, and the local communities who enjoy these special watercourses.

“Chemicals such as phosphates and ammonia come from urbanisation, and domestic products like detergents, as well as from human and animal waste.

"As our region grows, we need to find more natural ways to remove them from our waste water, rather than adding more chemicals in our treatment processes or building carbon hungry infrastructure, which is unsustainable, and would have an impact on customer bills too.

"The wetlands are therefore a great solution; they not only remove the unwanted chemicals naturally but they create a wildlife-rich environment too.”