From the wild moors and limestone dales of the Peak District to the river valleys of the Severn and the lowlands of the Trent, our region is blessed with rich, diverse and beautiful landscapes and habitats.
This is important, because in the next decades, the health of our environment will be reflected in the health of our business. When they thrive together, they will set our region apart.
The actions we take now to protect nature are more important than ever. Globally, we are facing a ‘sixth mass extinction’, with more than 1 million species at risk. The UK, too, has failed to reach 17 of the 20 biodiversity targets set by the UN in 2010, and 25% of mammals and 50% of birds are in danger of extinction. Climate change is only exacerbating this predicament.
As managers of land and water, we believe we have a part to play alongside our statutory duties, to work with our partners and plot a course to nature recovery.
When we look after nature, we look after water.
Investing in expanding and improving the natural environment is more than just the right thing to do, it is also a practical business imperative. Our environment is the vital partner to our reservoirs, treatment works, and pipelines; capturing, holding, cleaning, and carrying our water. Without nature, we could not do our job, and a flourishing environment plays an important role in helping us deliver our core activities more effectively and efficiently.
Our priorities are:
Nature recovery on our own land
Boosting nature beyond our boundaries
Making nature integral to catchment management
Our priorities for enhancing the natural environment
Our natural environment and biodiversity strategy is holistic, because nature doesn’t operate within boundaries. We start with our own rural estate, following an evidence-based plan to protect and improve ecologically valuable habitats and species, including at our visitor sites.
Beyond our own land, we work with an extensive set of partners organisations to improve biodiversity across a range of natural habitats in our catchment; we offer biodiversity grants to a wide range of community organisations like schools and community groups; and we work with thousands of farmers across 432,000 hectares to improve their land for nature and reduce agricultural effluent to help protect raw water quality which means we have to treat it less.
To do all this requires an approach that sees the landscape as a whole, understands and respects the multiple life support functions delivered by ecosystems, and delivers joined-up interventions to support natural cycles and connectivity.
We have expanded our in-house ecology team over recent years to support this aspiration.
Underpinning our efforts, we need useful ways to quantify the health of natural ecosystems now and the progress we make over time, so that we make sure that on our watch nature is constantly improving.
Biodiversity Net Gain tools provide one part of this picture, and as a business we are committed to Biodiversity Net Gain, so we will always leave nature better than we found it. On capital projects that require a preliminary ecological appraisal we are challenging ourselves to deliver 15% net gain.
As biodiversity increasingly rises up the international agenda we will incorporate the latest thinking on how to report corporate performance on nature, including developing our natural capital accounts and closely following the progress of initiatives like the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD).
As well as familiar wildlife, the Midlands is home to a number of protected species such as great crested newts, water vole, otter, white claw crayfish and bittern.
The open spaces, including wetlands, are also important to migratory birds, large numbers of which pass through the region in spring and autumn. Each species is dependent on others for its survival. The web of biodiversity itself is an integral and significant part of the Earth’s life support system.
We work with thousands of farmers across 432,000 hectares
Nature recovery on our own land
Our estate - half in Wales and half in England - covers a wide range of habitat types, from urban areas to woodland and grassland, tenanted farmland and forestry.
Protecting and enhancing biodiversity across all of the land that we own is a natural place for us to start, and is at the core of our contribution to nature recovery.
We focus our efforts in three key ways:
- Understanding and monitoring what we have
- Looking after designated sites
- Integrating our diversity aims across all our land management activities, through nature-friendly forestry and farming
The Lake Vyrnwy estate in Wales is one of our largest sites, with over 10,000 hectares of open moorland, blanket bog, farmland and forest, receiving 200,000 visitors every year.
The land surrounds a 7.6km long reservoir, built in the Victorian era to provide the growing city of Liverpool with water. Today, it brings together a partnership of ourselves, United Utilities - who deliver the water to Liverpool - the RSPB, Natural Resources Wales, and the local community. Our vision is for Lake Vyrnwy to be an exemplar of sustainable water and land management for the benefit of the environment, the local economy, the community and visitors.
Boosting nature beyond our boundaries
Our own land is only part of the picture, and working with nature means working with partners at a whole landscape scale, irrespective of ownership.
The Great Big Nature Boost
Between 2015 and 2020 we improved the diversity of 244 hectares of land, but we saw such good results with our work that we set a bold new ambition – and have embarked on one of the biggest nature projects in the UK. We are now aiming to improve biodiversity across 5,000 hectares of land in the Severn Trent region by 2027, significantly exceeding our regulatory commitments. Our Great Big Nature Boost will see us working to improve an area that’s bigger than Gloucester.
Through the Great Big Nature Boost, we will plant 1.3 million trees, sourced and grown from UK nurseries. The trees we plant will provide homes for our incredible native wildlife, contribute to natural flood management and sequester carbon. We will establish wildflower meadows, encouraging beneficial insects and birds, which are natural predators of pests that would otherwise damage farmers’ crops. This helps farmers to use less pesticide and fungicide, reducing the risk of chemicals running into lakes and rivers.
Restoring moorland in our region is valuable in many ways. Healthy moorland is vitally important, providing dense and diverse vegetation and provides much needed habitat for birds such as curlew and skylark.
Along with tree planting in gullies and on valley sides, healthy moorland helps make soil less prone to erosion and reduces the impact of flooding. Recovering bog and peatland and creating healthy peatbogs, traps and stores millions of tonnes of carbon and will hold vast quantities of the water, acting like huge sponges. Without this investment, the degraded peatland releases carbon back into the atmosphere and allows sediment to be washed away into watercourses. With restoration we can re-wet and reset the system.
We cannot do this without our partners, and we are proud to work with some of the leading conservation organisations nationally and in our region, for example our work with the RSPB to preserve and enhance ancient woodland in Sherwood Forest, and coordinating with the Wildlife Trusts on the development of Nature Recovery Networks.
We also know that action for nature needs to happen at multiple scales, and we think there should be opportunities for the full range of organisations and individuals to get involved. So our Boost for Biodiversity grant scheme specifically targets smaller projects, enabling local authorities, councils, schools, NGOs, local conservation groups and community groups to carry out their own projects to enhance the natural environment.
Between 2015 and 2020 we improved the biodiversity of 244 hectares of land
In 2020/21 we improved 2,632 hectares for biodiversity
We know that no single organisation, or government, will be able to carry the solutions to solving the issues of climate change and the loss of natural habitats alone. We’ve always sought out others to complement and support our aims and ambitions.
That’s why, across all the pillars of our environment strategy, we actively seek out and develop partnerships. We have an exceptional way of working with partner organisations and a solid track record of working in collaboration.
Whether it’s finding partner’s who can complement our skill sets to drive out innovation and better ways of working, to pooling resources to bring technological advances to push boundaries; Or, continuing to build on our legacy of working with some of the most well loved and recognised organisations in the UK.
In building this skill, we can transform our collective impact, by working together we can achieve the scale required to deliver outcomes that are in everyone’s interest.
Boost for Biodiversity: On a Tree by a River project
The Tame Valley Wetlands, the RSBP and West Midlands Bird Club has teamed up to secure £10,431 from the Severn Trent Boost for Biodiversity scheme for the ‘On a Tree by a River’ project. The work aims to increase the population and local range of Willow Tits in the Tame Valley, by creating new habitats and raising community awareness of the species.
“Severn Trent’s support has been fundamental to us bringing Willow Tits, one of the most threatened native bird species in the UK, back from the brink of extinction.”
Ian Wykes, Development Manager at Tame Valley Wetland.
Started in 2003, the Moors for the Future Partnership works to protect one of the most degraded landscapes in Europe.
Using innovative conservation techniques, it has transformed over 34 square kilometres of bare and degraded peat bogs in the Peak District National Park and South Pennines.
From 2020 to 2025, we will continue to work on over 600 hectares in the Upper Derwent Valley of the Peak District, where we will be improving moorland and restoring peat bogs.
We will increase biodiversity through sphagnum moss planting and blocking the grips (which were dug many years ago to drain the bogs) and gullies (caused by natural erosion).
The partnership is supported by the Peak District National Park Authority, Environment Agency, National Trust, Pennine Prospects, RSPB, Severn Trent, United Utilities, Yorkshire Water, and receives advice from Natural England, National Farmers Union, Heather Trust, Woodland Trust, Triodos Bank and the British Mountaineering Council.
Across our region, The Wildlife Trusts play a significant role in not only working with us to help deliver our biodiversity ambition, but they are also a vital partner in helping us connect to our rural communities.
Our Great Big Nature Boost is not only supporting the reintroduction of beavers to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, but also working with many of the Trust’s across the region enhancing and creating habitats.
In Nottinghamshire, we’re working together across landscape scale areas. In addition to the work at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve they are also supporting efforts to bring back wading birds and water voles in the wider.
Idle Washlands and work to improve water quality, soil health and increase farmland pollinators in Sherwood Forest.Together through our Farming for Water Programme, we have a long established programme of catchment work delivered for us by the Trust’s advisor, where our trial with farmers to under-sow maize has been a great example of innovation and partnership to help protect water quality.
"Serious investment in nature’s recovery is good for wildlife, good for communities and good for business. Working in partnership we have the power to address the climate and ecological emergencies through local action and our collaboration with Severn Trent Water embodies the kind of proactive approach needed to achieve national ambitions to create a flourishing Nature Recovery Network created from the ground up, with everyone playing a part. Together we are making vital progress by improving habitats and supporting threatened species – demonstrating the benefits of industry, farming and conservation working together and we hope that the bold approach taken by Severn Trent Water will encourage and inspire even more local action to deliver real change across the UK.” "
Making nature integral to catchment management
How agricultural land in our catchments is managed is one of the key determinants of our region’s biodiversity and ecosystem health, not only on land but also underwater.
While sewer overflows and pressure from built-up areas also have an impact on water quality, discharges from agriculture and land management are the single most significant cause of failure to meet the government’s targets for good ecological status in rivers.It is also in our interests as a water company to improve this. We estimate that for every £1 we spend to reduce runoff of phosphates, nitrates and other agricultural chemicals through our catchment management programmes, we avoid £2 - £20 of treatment costs and generate £4 of wider environmental benefits.
That is why our catchment management programme Farming for Water works directly with farmers to deliver a suite of integrated solutions that boost on-farm biodiversity at the same time as reducing agricultural inputs to improve water quality.
Improving 3,700km of rivers - 50% of all our rivers - by the end of 2025
Payment for Ecosystem Services
Our Farm to Tap scheme, launched in 2016, pays farmers to keep pesticides out of watercourses.
This contributes to improvements in drinking water quality and helps us reduce energy, chemicals and further costs in our water treatment process. In 2019/20, Farm to Tap helped to ensure we had no pesticide drinking water quality failures at any of our treatment works.
Looking ahead, the country as a whole faces a significant challenge to meet the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan target of 75% good ecological status in UK rivers as soon as possible - the current figure is just 14%. We plan to be part of this effort by helping farmers to keep nutrients where they are needed - in productive soils rather than washing out into watercourses. Together with our partners in the farming community we have already made great progress, delivering water quality improvements for around 1,600 km of river between 2015 and 2020, and in some of our catchments we estimate we can reduce farming’s contribution to phosphates in watercourses by up to 66%.
But now we are investing to expand Farming for Water further. Through extensive risk mapping, catchment walkovers and data analysis, we have identified areas where water quality is especially sensitive to how the land and crops are managed, allowing us to prioritise our actions. In total our ambitious future plans cover 44 catchments and 432,000 hectares. By the end of 2025 this will see us working with over two thirds of all the farmers in our region.
Enhancing our natural environment: our to do list
- Protect and enhance our ecologically important sites
- Limit invasive species and safeguard priority species
- Understand our estate in order to make strategic interventions with multiple benefits
- Contribute to climate mitigation, catchment management and biodiversity by planting 1.3m trees
- Improve the biodiversity of 5,000 hectares of landCultivate long-term strategic partnerships to restore natural ecosystems
- Develop our natural capital accounting framework to better quantify and account for the natural capital we are preserving and enhancing
- Expand our catchment programmes to work with 9,000 farmers (63% of all farmers in our region) and discover and roll out innovative practices to reduce agricultural runoff