How £1.5 million project near Harrogate could bolster Yorkshire's water supply

Yorkshire Water has invested 1.5 million to carry out the repairs
Yorkshire Water has invested 1.5 million to carry out the repairs

The quality of Yorkshire's drinking water is to be bolstered after £1.5 million was put towards repairing damage caused to peatland near Harrogate in the seventies.

Yorkshire Water has invested the funds and partnered with the Yorkshire Peat Partnership (YPP) and Swinton Estate to see blanket bog, areas where peat has been laid down and formed large wet areas,restored at Costerdale above Masham.

The bogs help to filter water before they reach Yorkshire's reservoirs, but if they are damaged they can release organic matter which discolours drinking water which is expensive to remove. Much of the county's peatland was damaged when drainage channels, or grips, were dug to improve land for farming.

However the funds have gone towards 30km of grips and gullies being blocked, to help keep the area wet and stop sediment from being washed into the water supply. Slopes on peat hags will also be reduced to prevent further erosion, the replanting of bare peat and peat hags helping see the bog return to its natural forming state.

A study will also be carried on the effectiveness of using certain species of moss as part of the repair work.

Andrew Walker, Catchment Strategy Manager at Yorkshire Water said: “Sphagnum is a moss that is a key component of blanket bog which can hold over eight times its weight in water. It helps not only to 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.

“This study, working with Manchester University will help inform and guide land managers as to what species, techniques and density of planting will have the most impact, and we are extremely grateful to the Estate and the Head Keeper in particular, for allowing us access to the monitoring sites over the coming months and years.”

It is believed the work will not only improve the quality of drinking water, with blanket bogs also being a key store of carbon and potentially helping to mitigate the impact of climate change. The UK holds 13 per cent of the world's blanket bogs.

Dr Tim Thom, Peat Programme Manager at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which leads YPP, 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.”

A spokesperson for Swinton Estate added: “We are delighted to be helping with this restoration work and the aim of the preservation of this valuable habitat for the wildlife and public alike.”