As a responsible steward of the natural environment we always seek to strike the right balance between the needs of our customers and the needs of wildlife.
We aim to protect and nurture wildlife wherever we encounter it, from our reservoirs to our operational sites.
Achievements in 2013/14 included:
Hen harriers back in Bowland: our Bowland Estate saw the return of breeding hen harriers after an absence of two years. Two out of only three nests in the whole of England were established on our catchment land and received around the clock attention from RSPB staff and volunteers.
We’ve been working with the RSPB to monitor and protect the nests of these protected birds since the early 1980s, and help to fund the RSPB Skydancer conservation and community engagement project.
Making operational sites a haven for wildlife: there’s no reason why our operational sites, such as water and wastewater treatment works, can’t provide a thriving home for wildlife. In recent years, we have made improvements at 16 water treatment works to improve biodiversity, and have now begun analysing the results. Notable successes include Alston in Lancashire, where we have seen successful occupation of artificial sand banks by sand martins. Meanwhile we have produced a ‘Greenbook’ for employees, to help them manage various environment issues on their sites, from looking after bats to managing invasive plant species.
Keeping wildlife wet and wonderful: some of the water we supply to our customers comes from naturally-occurring sources, such as lakes and rivers. It’s vital that we don’t over-abstract from these sources, to ensure there is enough water for indigenous wildlife to thrive.
In 2013/14, we continued to reduce abstraction in sensitive aquatic environments, or to cease abstraction entirely, in accordance with the Environment Agency’s Restoring Sustainable Abstraction programme and Habitats Directive Review of Consents process. We revoked 22 of our abstraction licences for unused sources and significantly reduced the abstraction volume on another licence. We will continue to progress work on other licences in the coming year.
Moving a mountain stream: Ben Gill, a steep, first-order, mountain tributary to the River Ehen has been diverted since the 1970s from its original course to an outlet in Ennerdale Water. We are undertaking a project to realign the stream to its original course during summer 2014 under the Habitats Directive Review. The realignment will restore the tributary’s natural sediment supply, essential for fish breeding grounds, and benefit the River Ehen Special Area of Conservation. We aim to complete the project in autumn 2014.
Capital ideas: during 2013/14, we assessed 44 major capital projects to understand their impact on local biodiversity. 43 of these projects resulted in no net biodiversity loss – meaning there was the equivalent amount of habitat when we had finished the job as there was when we started. The remaining project went even further, with an actual increase in natural habitat – a net gain.
If you would like to send us a comment about this report, please email our Head of Sustainability, Chris Matthews