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Upstream Thinking & the Working Wetlands project

What's good for water is good for wildlife

Upstream Thinking 2015-2020 is a new five year project funded by South West Water aimed at improving the quality of water arriving at water treatment works from the following river catchments:

  • Tamar
  • (Barnstaple) Yeo
  • Exe
  • Otter
  • Dart
  • Fernworthy

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Working Wetlands team is working in partnership with South West Water, West Country Rivers Trust and local farmers and businesses across these catchments to show what benefits ‘upstream thinking’ can bring to farming, wildlife, industry and communities.

Working with farmers

Green_haying_at_Headon_FarmWorking Wetlands Advisers are working with landowners to address potential sources of pollution on farm with the aim of protecting water quality and restoring important wildlife habitats.  Restored species-rich wet grasslands, often marginal to a working farm, act as natural filters to capture soil particles and nutrients from fertilisers before they reach rivers and reservoirs, thereby acting as effective buffers between agricultural practice and the water course.

An additional benefit of this kind of restoration is an increase in the capacity of the habitat to store water, thus relieving downstream flooding risk as well as reducing soil erosion and diffuse pollution.

So restoring our species-rich wet grasslands will, in turn, improve the water quality in our rivers.

What we can offer

We are helping landowners with reducing pesticide use, riverside fencing, prevention of run-off, soil management and habitat restoration.  We do this by offering free advice and support with applications to the new Countryside Stewardship scheme as well as being able to offer some capital grants for work which meets the project objectives. 

Advisers from our partners West Country Rivers Trust will be focusing their efforts on improvements to farm infrastructure such as pesticide handling areas, biobeds/ biofilters, improvements to slurry storage and nutrient management – all with the help of capital grants.

Supported by South West Water

River_OtterSouth West Water will benefit at least a £12m return on a £1m investment as well as lower treatment costs. Clean water supply reduces the need for expensive chemical filtration, which in turn will benefit consumers – you and me! 

Work is being undertaken to assess the value of specific natural services delivered by the restored habitat. Preliminary results are very encouraging; the restoration work is expected to bring water resource and carbon storage values in excess of £9 million.

Wildlife is benefiting, too, through additional habitat created for the nationally scarce marsh fritillary butterfly and important breeding populations of curlew and willow tit.

Find out more or get involved

For more information contact the Project Advisors - email  or find phone number and address details in the Contact us box on the left hand side of this page.

Watch the film

View the 10 minute project video which gives more information about Upstream Thinking and the Working Wetlands project.

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