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Trailblazing initiatives needed to make the waters fine for the environment and customers

Customers tell us they want the best service at a price they can afford, and they also expect us to play our part in protecting our region’s environment.

Every day at Anglian Water two imperatives drive us; giving great customer service and protecting the environment. Customers tell us they want the best service at a price they can afford, and they also expect us to play our part in protecting our region’s environment. Every five years we produce a business plan that shows how we’ll do just that.

We protect the environment to safeguard the wealth of wildlife around us. But we’re increasingly aware of how our region’s economy depends on the environment too. Healthy soil is vital for sustainable agriculture. Healthy bathing waters underpin tourism around the coast. Green spaces rich in wildlife make our communities a great place to live and work. And of course, we all rely on water for drinking, farming and manufacturing. For us, a healthy and resilient water environment is vital to provide reliable and affordable services to our customers.

Protecting the environment doesn’t have to cost the earth. We’re looking at how we can meet our objectives by moving away from traditional end-of-pipe steel and cement solutions to solving problems at source and helping nature to help us. These are usually lower cost and more sustainable. For example we have a team of expert Agriculture Advisors who work with farmers to reduce the risk of pesticides getting into rivers and we’re promoting the use of sustainable drainage systems to protect the sewer network.

One of the most exciting recent developments has been at Ingoldisthorpe in west Norfolk. Rather than install expensive equipment at the water recycling centre, we asked Norfolk Rivers Trust to build and operate a new wetland instead. This has been designed to remove ammonia from our treated water before it discharges into the river Ingol. The one-hectare wetland is made up of four large ponds which have been stocked with native plants. So not only does this wetland perform an important treatment function, but it greatly increases biodiversity in the local area, helping meet nature conservation targets. Furthermore, the whole operation uses less carbon and is a lower cost solution than the traditional alternative. It’s a fantastic win for the environment and for customers’ bills.

The Ingoldisthorpe wetland is a trailblazer. We intend to build more in our next business plan period from 2020-2025 alongside many other activities that will enhance the natural environment.

The Ingoldisthorpe project shares something in common with the principles we have agreed with Blueprint members. They both show the importance of collaboration. Whether it’s working at a strategic level on policy issues or research, or on the ground creating treatment wetlands, maximising opportunities to protect the water environment will best be achieved by working towards shared goals.

This has never been more important than it is now. Leaving the EU gives us a once in a life-time opportunity to put the environment at the heart of decision-making. If we don’t seize it we won’t meet the government’s ambition to leave the environment in a better condition than when we inherited it.

Chris Gerrard, Natural Catchment and Biodiversity Manager, Anglian Water

Follow @ChrisGerrard and @AWCoastCountry

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.