Severn Trent PLC announces restoration of over 2,000 acres of peatland across England and Wales by 2025

Monday 8th November 2021

With global leaders in Glasgow for COP26 to address the threats that climate change and nature loss bring, Severn Trent PLC have announced that by 2025 it will have restored over 2,000 acres of peatland across England and Wales.

Severn Trent PLC, made up of water companies Severn Trent and Hafren Dyfrdwy that provide water and waste services to customers across the Midlands and into mid-Wales, is tackling the threat of nature loss and climate change, by restoring more peatland to help improve water quality on top of its other environmental commitments.

The companies will be working with partners RSPB Wales and Moors for the Future to restore 2,000 acres of peatland by 2025 at its reservoirs at Lake Vyrnwy, and at Upper Derwent Valley in the Peak District.

Severn Trent’s announcement is also part of its commitment to the ‘Get Nature Positive’ campaign, ran by the Council of Sustainable Business (CSB) where along with other businesses like National Grid, M&S and Coca Cola, it’s committing to get nature positive to promote sustainable businesses.

This is in addition to the company’s other nature commitments, including its Great Big Nature Boost initiative in September 2020, committing to reviving 12,000 acres of land and planting 1.3 million trees, culminating in the restoration of 2,000km of rivers. 

Liv Garfield, Severn Trent CEO said: “With our environments and the threat of climate change and nature loss at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now, now’s the time businesses and companies like us have to understand the important role we can play in combating nature loss and improving the environments around us that we’re gifted with. That’s why this exciting addition to our commitments to nature that will see us restore over 2,000 acres of peatland in England and Wales, will make a huge difference. It will not only positively impact communities and the environment, but will protect and improve water quality and see us going even further in our commitment to nature.”

Working with Moors to the Future, teams will be planting sphagnum moss in Upper Derwent Valley in the Peak District, where the this moss will grow and improve the quality of the water flowing into reservoirs by slowing it down, holding it for longer, and also trapping carbon dioxide as it grows. The moss will not only contribute to water security, but also will act as a natural flood defence and a sieve as it will help protect the reservoirs from any run off. 

RSPB Wales will be working with Hafren Dyfrdwy at Lake Vyrnwy, as they look to improve a vast area of peatland by blocking artificial drainage channels to raise the water table, reduce surface run off and re-wet the peat.

Liv added: “We’re quite literally plumbed in to our region’s landscape and our communities, when these places thrive and our communities prosper, so do we. Our Great Big Nature Boost project and other environmental schemes, such as Green Recovery, provide a wonderful opportunity to improve the region’s natural environment and nature across the region as well as encouraging wellbeing. This extra restoration of 2,000 acres in England and Wales will massively also play a big part in that by improving landscapes, restoring nature and improving water quality, bringing benefits to us, and the environment.”

Mollie Hunt, Moor Water Severn Trent Project Manager for Moors for the Future Partnership: “The peat bog moors in the Peak District and South Pennines, including those in the Upper Derwent Valley, are in very bad condition. Moors for the Future Partnership is working to restore them. Most of the bog-building plant, sphagnum moss, has disappeared. This is a result of historic air pollution dating back to the industrial revolution, caused by huge amounts of coal smoke from the surrounding industrial cities of Manchester and Sheffield. Sphagnum moss was particularly vulnerable because it doesn’t have roots – it takes its water and nutrients directly from the rain.

“The peat in this catchment – the area that water flows into the Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs – contains 9 million tonnes of carbon. If released as CO2 this would be the same as the emissions from a coal-fired power stations for eight years. So it’s absolutely vital that the peat is kept where it is with a living bog layer to help it stay put.

“The Moor Water Severn Trent project is tackling this. We’re planting over 600 hectares of sphagnum over four years, that’s over 800 football pitches! Every 50p sized plug is planted by hand. The sphagnum will spread out and grow, roughly doubling in size every year. As they grow the bog will become wetter, a better habitat for nature especially breeding birds like dunlin and golden plover, and will slow water down. That will mean less erosion, and peat staying on the moor where it belongs. When it’s fully restored it will become a carbon sink – the sphagnum moss takes carbon dioxide in and slowly turns into peat.” 

Jon Pike, RSPB Lake Vyrnwy Senior Site Manager, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Hafren Dyfrdwy to deliver an ambitious programme of peatland restoration at Lake Vyrnwy. The uplands around Lake Vyrnwy include extensive areas of peatland (blanket bog) which are degraded due to past land management practices. Degrading peatland releases carbon and reduces the biodiversity of this designated landscape, as well as impacting water catchment management. Through this restoration programme we are aiming to create the conditions where peat-forming vegetation can thrive helping to tackle both the climate and nature emergencies.”

As well as restoring 2,000 of peatland by 2025, Severn Trent published its ‘Caring for Our Environment’ which details Severn Trent’s environmental ambitions and commitments. The report states that Severn Trent will aim to:

·        Contribute to climate mitigation, catchment management and biodiversity by planting 1.3m trees;

·        Achieve Net zero operational carbon; 100% renewable energy and 100% electric vehicle fleet by 2030;

·        Using an approved carbon reduction plan approved by the global Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) reduce scope 1 and scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 46.2%;

·        Creating 68Ml/d of new supply capacity to ensure security of supplies while reducing abstraction from unsustainable sources by up to 39Ml/d by 2030.

·        Improve 12,000 acres of land in the Severn Trent region by 2027 through its Great Big Nature Boost;

·        Expand catchment programmes to work with 9,000 farmers to roll out innovative practices to reduce agricultural run off to protect water quality;

·        Install 15,000 blue green sustainable drainage and nature based solutions to prevent flooding;

·        Help rivers to reach ecologically good status and for our region to become recognised as leading area for river swimming.