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Nature and the water sector

Water is vital for human life, our communities, and business.
How can the water industry help to protect and preserve this resource?

Water is life

We can all play our part in protecting and improving our natural environment.

This chapter explores ways in which water companies can play a leading role.

Water companies’ role in securing a nature positive future involves both preventing harm to rivers and making positive changes to actively improve nature.

The first step is to understand the challenges facing nature and biodiversity, and how to address them.

Challenges facing nature
Aerial shot of dried up river

What’s being done

Leading UK water companies are working hard to reduce any impact on nature caused by their operations, and to actively improve the environment.

They spend over £1 billion a year on improving nature —more than any other part of the public sector. This investment has resulted in substantial improvements to 10,000 km of rivers.

They have helped create 77 Blue Flag beaches throughout England (up from 12 in 1987) [source] and are on track to being carbon neutral by 2030. The quality of our rivers is now comparable or better than equally industrialised areas in Europe. 

But we are not where we should be. We need to address the underlying causes from a number of different sectors. Now is the time for farmers, the water sector, and wider society to pull together and actively contribute to rebuilding nature. That effort is well underway, as you will see in the examples and inspiration in this chapter.

Explore case studies
Water bottle floating in ocean

The path forward

Businesses can take a variety of positive actions, from quick wins to longer-term efforts.

Many of these actions require collaboration – with other businesses and across sectors.

Examples of different types of action are showcased here, not as a comprehensive checklist, but as inspiration for further positive action. 

Effective action begins with an understanding of the challenges facing nature and the actions already being taken. Knowing we can always do more, and encourage other businesses in the sector and throughout our supply chains to join us on the journey to Get Nature Positive.

Explore actions for nature

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Our waterways are the lifeblood of our environment and effective water supply is essential for human health. Our rivers, canals, lakes and wetlands are the vital ecosystem that supplies our clean drinking water, provides a home for our precious wildlife and, in good condition, can help tackle the climate crisis by storing huge amounts of carbon.

Beccy Speight CEO, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

CEO’s Perspective

Liv Garfield, Severn Trent plc

I am hugely encouraged by the growing debate about how to improve nature generally, and particularly how to improve the natural condition of our rivers.

Analysis by the Environment Agency shows that rivers are now in better condition than any time since the Industrial Revolution. Yet significant challenges remain.

We need to tackle pollution that runs into our rivers from the surrounding land – excess fertiliser, animal waste, run-off from roads, for example. And we need to ensure that investment into our sewage networks keeps pace with population growth, the effects of climate change, and societal expectations.

Read more from Ms. Garfield

The challenges facing nature

Deep dive into the five key pressures on nature, and how the water sector can ease them.
Learn more