Yorkshire Water: £9m to restore peatland to former glory

Yorkshire peatland is to be restored in a £9 million five-year programme by Yorkshire Water.

The aim is to protect a natural moorland feature which evolved over many thousands of years.

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But the restoration will also reduce the amount of discolouration caused to water supplies by peat dust which is washed into reservoirs.

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Ancient peatland above West Yorkshire's industrial towns and cities has suffered from degradation due in part to 200 years of industrial pollution, coupled with inappropriate maintenance.

Water tables have fallen.

As a result much of it has dried out.

Below ground, erosion has caused tunnels, or "peat pipes," to develop which exacerbate the problem, draining off water.

In addition large gulleys have developed on the surface which drain rainwater and cause further erosion.

To survive and be healthy, the peatlands need to maintain a high water content.

Andrew Walker, Yorkshire Water catchment development leader, said: "The moor is eroding from the bottom upwards. You can see where the peat pipes are by the subsidence."

To solve the problem, Yorkshire Water plans to block the peat pipes, and also re-vegetate areas where gulleys have developed.

Plastic barriers will be inserted into the peat pipes.

Equipment to carry out the operation, which started in mid-December, has to be flown to sites by helicopter.

The operation involves peatland sites all over Yorkshire – the company owns thousands of hectares of lands across the region.

Work started recently on peatlands above Keighley.

The project follows two years of research by Leeds University into the problem.

In addition to restoring the peatlands to a healthier state, Yorkshire Water hopes the action will reduce the washing down of peat sediment into its reservoirs, which has become a major and costly problem.

Dried up areas of peatland across the UK are now reckoned to release the equivalent of 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year – that's roughly the same as the emissions from a million households.

Mr Walker said: "We recognise that we have the opportunity to make a huge difference to some of Yorkshire's most iconic landscapes by restoring them back to health, boosting local biodiversity and benefitting the thousands of visitors and user groups who currently

derive enjoyment or income from them.

"Our work will also have wider environmental benefits too, as we'll be protecting and enhancing peatland which serve as some of the largest natural carbon reservoirs in the UK."

Now considered rarer than rainforest, concern is growing around the condition of heather peatland in the UK.

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