Earlier this week, Anglian Water, Utility Week’s Utility of the Year for 2018, began constructing a new filtration system at its water treatment works in Norwich. The system, part of a £36 million scheme to maintain and improve service in the years to come, will be the largest of its kind in Europe once completed.

The overall scheme, beginning in 2017, makes up part of the £500 million the company is set to invest in the region between 2015 and 2020.

Construction of the filtration system should be completed later this year, and will supplement the existing treatment process.

Every day, Anglian Water supplies millions of litres from the River Wensum to over 250,000 households and businesses in the Norwich area.

Crucially, Norfolk’s population is predicted to reach one million people by 2034, many of whom will choose to live in Norwich, one of the UK’s fastest growing cities. This growth, combined with being one of the driest counties in the UK, means investment will be fundamental to maintaining the water supply.

Complicating this, parts of the River Wensum are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation. The Costessey Pits area specifically has a diverse environment that needs protecting.

In the future, Anglian Water will not be able take enough water from Costessey alone to support the growing population without having adverse environmental effects. To protect the environment, more water will need to be taken further downstream in the Wensum – nearer Heigham Water Treatment Works itself.

The water levels near Heigham are higher, meaning Anglian Water can take the water needed from the river without damaging the delicate ecosystem near Costessey.

This water has not been previously usable due to sediment levels; but the installation of the new filtration system will allow for its treatment and usage.

Regan Harris from Anglian Water said: “Norwich is a rapidly growing, thriving city and a regional economic powerhouse. Water helps power that economy, so it’s essential there’s enough to go around but we also care for the environment and want to ensure we’re protecting it.”

“We’re planning decades into the future with this investment, to make sure Norwich’s water supplies are secure for years to come,” Regan continued. “Although fundamentally there is still the same finite volume of water to go around the Wensum and other rivers of Norfolk, we’ll be preventing any extra stress on the ecosystem in the river in future.”