Yorkshire Water has invested £1.5 million to improve the quality of Yorkshire’s drinking water, by repairing damage caused to the peatland in the 1970s.
Yorkshire Water, together with the Yorkshire Peat Partnership (YPP) and the Swinton Estate have been working to restore blanket bog, a product of peat which helps to filter water before it reaches Yorkshire’s reservoirs.
In the 70s, much of the peatland was damaged by drainage channels known as grips, which dried out the peat and led to widespread erosion in the form of gullies.
Damaged peatlands cause discoloration of drinking water as particles of organic matter are released into the reservoirs, so by blocking 30km of grips and gullies, bogs will be kept wet and sediment will be prevented from mixing into the water supply.
Swinton Estate commented that it is “delighted to be helping with this restoration work and the aim of the preservation of this valuable habitat for the wildlife and public alike”.
Alongside the work to restore the peatland, a study is being carried out in partnership with the University of Manchester, looking at the effectiveness of inoculating the moorlands with a key species of a moss called sphagnum, a key component of blanket bog, which can hold over eight times its weight in water.
According to Andrew Walker, catchment strategy manager at Yorkshire Water, sphagnum can “keep the moors wetter, and the water draining from it cleaner, but it can also help reduce the flow of water off the moors, thereby helping to reduce the impacts of flooding further downstream.”
The UK holds 13 per cent of the world’s blanket bog, which is a key store of carbon, therefore it is crucial to properly manage it in order to lock up carbon and fight against climate change. As a result of the work being done, the biodiversity and habitat of the moors will also see improvements.
Commenting on the project, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust peat programme manager Tim Thom said: “It’s been tremendous working with Yorkshire Water and the Swinton Estate. We’re looking forward to expanding that work with our research into Sphagnum planting techniques that will help improve peatland restoration across Yorkshire.”