Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak today outlined the Government’s budget for the next year.
As the vote approached, we launched a callout in partnership with BirdLife Europe to ‘share a swan’ as a symbol of hope. See a small selection of some of the artworks our supportive WWT community produced!
Scientists predict that one of the impacts of our climate emergency will be heavier rainfall and greater frequency and strength of storms. Find out how we can use wetlands to help reduce flooding in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
The water situation in the UK is precarious, yet a clean and reliable water supply is vital for many businesses. Water companies, the drinks industry, agriculture, horticulture and energy companies are just some that spring to mind. Over-abstraction, where water is taken from the landscape for use, continues to be a problem. Pollution also remains a major issue with only 14% of England’s rivers classed as having ‘good’ ecological status. Last year saw a surge in concern over the impact we are having on our environment and a rise in public support for urgent action to tackle the crisis. As we seek our way out of the global pandemic, people don’t want to return to the unsustainable trajectory we were on. Building a more environmentally sustainable future remains vital to a new economic model, a so-called ‘green recovery’. We believe that wetlands can provide the solution to many of these challenges. Using wetlands to reduce water pollution Disposing of water and associated pollutants can represent a significant cost for businesses. There are now many forms of treatment wetlands that have been shown to provide effective pollution control. The operating costs for them are low and capital costs can be highly competitive compared to other treatments. Glengoyne Distillery is working with WWT to use wetlands to treat their wastewater naturally, enabling them to save money while improving the environment at the same time. The whisky distillation process creates something called ‘spent lees’, which is the liquid they no longer need, post distillation. Instead of having to be sent off-site to an industrial treatment plant, this wastewater is now filtered onsite. The liquid now makes its way through a series of twelve specially created wetlands where reedbeds filter and clean the liquid, before it flows into the local burn and then on to Loch Lomond.
Many of us have become acutely aware that our connection to wild places and other forms of life is innate and essential to our wellbeing as well as that of the wildlife we love. So how can we make nature and our health our priority?
Up to half a million fish each day will be sucked into Hinkley Point C nuclear power station if it is allowed to install a “giant plughole” in one of the UK’s heaviest protected marine areas, the Severn Estuary.
The Water Framework Directive is a piece of legislation that has lead to the Environment Agency improving over 4,500km of water bodies in the last 3 years. Now, that directive is under review - and there's a chance it could be weakened.
Since 1970 over 50 per cent of our freshwater and wetland species have declined in numbers. The main reason is because the quality and quantity of water they live in is declining too.
The city of Colombo grew out of a group of fishing villages around a wetland. Today, these wetlands cover more than 15% of the total area of the Colombo Metropolitan Region. They protect the city from flooding and help mitigate climate change.
(main photo: Dealing with floods WWT style - with floating wheelbarrows!) Blog by Peter Morris, WWT Head of CampaignsIt is 10 years since the UK’s worst floods on record. It’s a time to: Firstly reflect on the shock, hardship and bravery of thousands of people across the nation who found their lives washed away by rising waters. This week their stories are being widely recounted by their local press who recorded the devastation. Secondly catch up with those people and hear how their stories unfolded once the public focus moved on. For some, it took years to wrestle with insurance companies, rebuild homes or re-establish businesses. And thirdly assess whether we learned the lessons of 2007 and have reduced future flood risk where we can. On that third point, things started well. The Government set up a review and accepted many of its recommendations. Among those was a recognition that covering our country with more and more buildings and tarmac increases flood risk – because water runs off hard surfaces quickly which increases peak flows into rivers. So Parliament passed a law in 2010 to say that new developments must deal with rainfall through sustainable means wherever possible. That generally means creating "mini-wetland" features which let rainfall permeate slowly through the soil, rather than being sped down a pipe to overwhelm the nearest river. These "mini-wetland" features include ponds, bog gardens and soakaway patches. These can be as simple as letting the water soak into a lawn or flower bed. But by late 2010 the floods were a distant memory in Westminster, and the lessons began to be unlearned. The new government’s priorities included deregulation and tackling economic issues. So it refused to implement the law that Parliament had passed (except in the minority of largest developments). The primary reason the government gave was to “avoid excessive burden on business”. In other words, a new law would be inconsistent with their political promise to deregulate the construction industry in order to boost the economy. Ironically, this doesn’t make economic sense. A soakaway patch is generally a lot cheaper than installing underground piping. The government’s own figures suggested sustainable drainage is usually cheaper than traditional drainage and that every £1 spent on sustainable drainage could return up to £3 in benefits for water quality and lower flood risk. But the decision was less about reality and more about political perception. WWT continues to press the current Government on this issue. We're working with many partners who are equally concerned. Have a look at our joint reports with the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and Business In The Community (BITC) (the latter relates to building sustainable drainage in schools). As a result of that pressure, the Government is currently reviewing the effectiveness of the current law on SuDS and is set to publish that review later this year.
People’s homes will be at greater risk from flooding by 2020 because new homes will overwhelm existing drains, according to the biggest ever survey of building and flooding professionals. More sustainable drainage systems is the answer.
A garden that shows people how they can help solve local flooding through gardening has won a Gold Award and Best Garden award at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2016. The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s “Working Wetlands Garden” is designed by Jeni Cairns and supported by HSBC. It uses 85 species of native plants and a series of water features to manage rainwater running off the roof of its pavilion. How it works Many people don’t realise the sheer speed that rainwater runs off hard surfaces like your roof, patio or decking can contribute to local drains becoming overwhelmed after heavy rainfall. Multiplied by many homes and gardens in a neighbourhood, the sudden rush of water can have serious consequences: when Carlisle was flooded in 2005, a quarter of the floodwater came from overwhelmed drains and surface water from properties for miles around. At RHS Hampton Court Show, the WWT “Working Wetland Garden” is showing gardeners how your garden can hold back heavy rainfall and release it slowly, by using a series of water features that can make your garden more attractive for you and for wildlife. Instead of pouring down drains, the water filters through gravel beds, runs down channels into flowerbeds, through permeable paving, into a pond and soakaway hollows, and feeds and nurtures a variety of marsh plants that help to keep the water clean. Great for learning about water RHS Gold Award winning designer Jeni Cairns has created the garden with WWT so that it can be transported to WWT’s Washington Wetland Centre when the show is over, to become a permanent outdoor classroom as part of HSBC’s Water Programme. Learning staff from Washington were at the show to road-test some water cycle lessons with local children from Trafalgar Infants School, Twickenham. What they said about it Children from Trafalgar Infants School, Twickenham[/caption] Feedback from the RHS judges was that the garden was “really easy to judge”; they liked the story behind the garden; they appreciated how delicate many of the wildflowers were to transport and plant; and they loved how Jeni had juxtaposed probably the wildest feeling garden at the show with some creative use of recycled industrial materials to recycle water. The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s Simon Rose said: “Your garden can benefit from heavy storms. Together, nature and water make beautiful surroundings. If you store and soak up heavy rainfall, you can help reduce local flooding, create a welcoming naturalistic space around your home, and attract wildlife too.” “The idea is to mimic how huge wetlands regulate river catchments at landscape scale by holding up rainwater and releasing it slowly. You can do exactly the same thing at garden scale and easily create your own personal wetland nature reserve.” Designer Jeni Cairns, of Juniper House Garden Design, said: Garden designer Jeni Cairns, HSBC's Sue Alexander and WWT's Kevin Peberdy with the awards “I’m amazed and delighted to win these awards. The garden demonstrates it’s relatively easy for anyone to recycle water by getting creative with recycled objects. “It’s more difficult to do this for a show where you’re using mature native plants that are so fragile and can easily snap, but it was worth it because the effect is beautiful. I’m really pleased that all the hard work crafting metal and wood and making the water system work has been recognised. “It’s all about spreading the message that water is important and you can use it creatively rather than waste it.” HSBC Holdings Plc Group Chairman Douglas Flint said: “Water will be one of the most important resources for the world to protect over the next 20 to 30 years” Facts behind the garden The garden uses 85 plant species, most of which are British natives. Summer flowering plants have been selected for colour including loosestrife, flowering rush and greater spearwort – providing a predominant purple mixed with cream and yellow. Rainwater falls on a pagoda roof and cascades into tanks filled with gravel and marsh plants. While rainwater is very clean, this filters out any dust, leaves, twigs or bird poo that might be on your roof if you’re recreating the garden at home. The marsh plants take up some of the water, but at peak flows it will overspill into a pond surrounded by plants. The fact the pond is rain-fed with clear, clean water helps to attract wildlife. Some of the water slowly evaporates or transpires away. The pond can overflow into a number of features includng permeable paving, flower beds and hollows, all of which allow water to soak away slowly into the ground. The entire garden makes use of all the incoming rainwater to create a beautiful, wildlife-rich without any water being wasted down any drains. Several features are recycled. The pagoda roof is the inverted roof of a grain silo; bench supports are made from the curved girders from the same silo; the cascade was an air duct from a warehouse; the chain cascade is made from the chains of an old harrow; old sheets of metal have been intricately carved to make relief water scenes of dragonflies and kingfishers. The garden pavilion is built on a wooden platform weighing six tonnes, which spreads the weight of the structure across the Hampton Court ground underneath. After the show, the whole garden – including all the plants – will be transported to WWT Washington Wetland Centre as part of WWT’s Inspiring Generations scheme to provide outdoor learning to disadvantaged school pupils. Funded by the HSBC Water Programme, 60,000 children across the country are receiving a free outdoor learning session including hands on activities like pond dipping and bird feeding. The garden furniture may well be the heaviest at Hampton Court: it is made from recycled ekki wood, which is so dense and durable that it’s widely used as pillars to stop ocean liners bumping into jetties. We’re pleased to find ways to extend this timber’s working life. Each chair is so heavy that we haven’t managed to put it on a set of scales, but it will certainly weigh more than all the children at the learning session put together! More photos: