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  • by Trevor Loveday

Water UK backs call for mandate on firms to restore peat fields on their land

The UK water industry has backed a call from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for a mandate on water companies to restore peat on their land.

In a recent report on the land use policy changes needed to achieve net zero carbon the committee acknowledged catchment-scale restoration of upland peat by water companies to improve water quality. Water UK responded: “The Committee on Climate Change is absolutely right about the radical change needed in this country on using land differently so that we can reduce and store carbon,” said a spokesperson for the industry representative. The spokesperson added: “Many [water firms] are also working with partners to restore and preserve our peat bogs as vital carbon stores.”

The CCC in its report: Land use: Policies for a Net Zero UK, said the removal of peat sediment and dissolved organic carbon from degraded peatlands represents a large cost in water treatment for water utilities, The report says: “It is estimated that the water companies invested around £45 million between 2005 and 2015 in upland restoration.”

It went on to say companies with large peat areas on their lands are “factoring in the wider benefits that well-functioning peat can deliver such as biodiversity,” adding: “Water companies already have approval from the water regulator to recover the costs of restoration through customer bills, which helps offset the costs of treating water downstream of the catchment.”

The report said farming can have a significant impact on water courses that requires “significant investment by water companies” to improving the purity and colour of water. “By reducing nitrate and phosphorus leaching from soils, farms can reduce water companies' water treatment costs.”

It highlighted an initiative by Wessex Water subsidiary, EnTrade, to reduce nitrogen run-off into Poole Harbour through farmers bidding in a series of reverse auctions for funds to plant cover crops over winter or revert arable land back to grassland. “The scheme has removed the need to build costlier assets to remove the nitrogen at its local sewage works,” said the CCC.

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