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Thames Water announces ‘smarter’ plans and wetlands to improve and protect the River Evenlode

Monday 25th October 2021 15:47

Guests gather round a new wetlands at the River Evenlode event

Guests gather round new wetlands, which have been created as part of the Smarter Water Catchments Initiative for the River Evenlode.

New wetlands to help improve the water quality of rivers in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire have been created as part of ground-breaking plans to protect and enhance the River Evenlode. 

On Friday (October 22), community leaders, developers and councillors joined Thames Water at the official launch event of its Smarter Water Catchments Initiative for the River Evenlode, at Magpie Farm in Chipping Norton. 

Guests saw first-hand new wetland habitats which were created by the partners of the Evenlode Catchment Partnership, including Thames Water, Atkins, the landowner, the Environment Agency and Natural England. The wetlands, which are upstream of the Evenlode, have been designed to help reduce phosphorus run off from farm land, create natural flood management and boost biodiversity and recreational opportunities. Together with improvements at local sewage treatment works, this work will help to ensure that the River Evenlode can meet its phosphorus river quality objectives.

The Smarter Water Catchments Initiative is a £3 million project that aims to bring together organisations, community groups and residents from across the region to help secure a brighter future for the River Evenlode and other rivers in the area.  

The plans set out a 10-year commitment to help the Evenlode gain Good Ecological Status, boost biodiversity and help address water quality issues as well as providing wider benefits for local communities through natural flood management schemes, better access, schools programmes, volunteering opportunities and health and wellbeing benefits.

Richard Aylard, Thames Water sustainability director, said: “We are keen to play our full part in protecting and enhancing our precious rivers and streams – while there is still a long way to go, the ambition is clear. Working in partnership with local stakeholders we’ve set out our collective plans to improve the Evenlode’s Ecological Status by reducing pollution, restoring physical habitats and improving water quality.  

“We’re looking forward to working with local partners to improve access and engage as many local people as possible in this wonderful River and the wildlife on their doorstep. Our smarter water catchments are all about Thames Water collaborating with the people who know and love their local rivers the most, for the benefit of future generations.”

Nick Mottram, chairman of the Evenlode Catchment Partnership said: “The Evenlode Catchment Partnership was pleased to welcome a large and diverse group of people to the launch of the Evenlode Smarter Water Catchment programme at Magpie Farm near Heythrop, by kind permission of the landowner. “Partnership” is key, as making improvements to our water environment requires many different people and organisations to work together to achieve a shared vision. 

“By strengthening our partnership with Thames Water this new ‘smarter water catchment’ initiative, hosted by Wild Oxfordshire, offers an opportunity to build stronger links with local communities, landowners and farmers. This will allow us to improve our understanding of and make improvements to issues such as water quality, biodiversity and local flood resilience. Together this will help the ECP achieve its long-term goal of bringing the Evenlode back to good ecological condition - a river and landscape that truly merits its place at the heart of our community.”

Jonathan Newman and Andrew Russell from Natural England said: “The Magpie Farm wetland project has been successfully delivered and would not have been possible without the planning, expertise and funding brought together by the elements of the Evenlode Catchment Partnership. The environmental enhancement supported by Thames Water’s “Smarter Water Catchment” initiative shows how working in partnership can bring about real benefits for the environment in terms of both water quality and habitat creation.”

High levels of phosphorus in rivers can enrich the water and cause algae blooms in late spring and summer, which can severely affect the quantity and diversity of fish and insects.  

Further ‘Smarter’ projects for the River Evenlode include: 

  • Working with Thames Water’s operations teams, farmers and stakeholders to encourage water sensitive farming and reduce phosphorus loss from sewage works, farms and fields into local watercourses.
  • Assessing the impact of the sewage treatment work process on the river and identifying sustainable solutions to mitigate potential problems.
  • Developing further wetland creation schemes to help retain nutrients on farmland and enhance biodiversity. 
  • Focused water quality monitoring and wet grassland surveys to update priority habitats mapping.
  • Installing and creating natural flood management schemes including 14 retention ponds and 27 woody dams.
  • Developing a bespoke programme of activities such as river restoration projects to engage communities in environmental activities and supporting nature recovery.

The full set of initiatives for the River Evenlode can be found on the Thames Water website. The company has also launched plans for the River Chess and the River Crane. The three plans were co-created in partnership with 67 organisations who have an interest in these rivers. Thames Water will be looking at expanding this approach to other catchments from 2025 onwards.