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Biodiversity is a word used to describe the variety of life on Earth. It includes all species of plants and animals and the complex habitats and systems they are part of. When we talk about biodiversity, this is not limited to rare or threatened species or habitats. It includes the whole of the natural world, from the commonplace to the highly endangered.

A red admiral and comma butterfly resting on a purple  flower

Looking after biodiversity

We have an innovative programme of conservation activities and enhancements designed to engage our employees, customers and stakeholders on key environmental issues. Our emphasis is on conserving and improving biodiversity and access to nature for our customers and local communities. We work to protect and enhance wildlife habitats on and around our operational sites and to share them with communities where possible.

From 2020 to 2025 we’ve committed, with our regulator Ofwat, to enhance biodiversity by 5% at 253 of our most important sites for nature. The area of land to be improved by this five-year biodiversity programme is c.4,000 hectares. This area is about two and a half times the size of Heathrow Airport. We'll achieve this by improving the condition of existing habitats through changes in management regimes of grassland. We'll also create new habitats with improved connectivity, such as wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows.

We also manage 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which are legally protected wildlife areas. With 47 of the UK’s 224 chalk streams in our region we’re committed to protecting these rare and biodiverse sites. Around 99% of our SSSI land area is classified as ‘favourable’ (50.89%) or ‘unfavourable recovering’ by Natural England. We’re working with Natural England and other specialists to understand how to further improve the condition of ‘unfavourable recovering’ areas. These can be a result of wider population trends rather than specific conditions on site.

Our biodiversity duties

We have a statutory duty to protect and, where possible enhance, biodiversity and landscapes of natural beauty. This is under the water industry's Code of Practice on Conservation, Access and Recreation 2000. The Code gives practical guidance to water and sewerage companies and the Environment Agency on environmental and recreational duties under the Water Industry Act 1991 and the Environment Act 1995.

We have had a formal biodiversity duty since 1 October 2006 under Section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. The Act requires that when we are carrying out our work, we must "have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of [our] functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity". This includes restoring and enhancing biodiversity, as well as protecting it.

A wide variety of other UK, European and international environmental legislation also protects biodiversity. The Defra website includes useful background on this legislation.