Challenge 1 – Sustainability of wetlands for the economy, environment and society
With increasing interest in wetlands for wastewater bioremediation, flood management, and agriculture, how can such goals be achieved sustainably whilst optimising biodiversity and other natural capital values?
The use of natural wetlands for bioremediation is exemplified by the River Ingol Wetland project in Norfolk; the first of its kind in England. The site works as a natural treatment plant for millions of litres of water a day. The quality of water in this rare spring-fed chalk stream is improved overall, benefiting the whole of this wetland biodiversity asset; attracting breeding birds, amphibians, bats, and water voles, and an amenity for humans too.
There are proposals currently with the industry regulator Ofwat which, if successful, could see as many as 59 more treatment wetlands built in the coming years in the Anglian Water region, and a model for schemes elsewhere.
Some questions that the wider developments of such schemes pose might include:
- How can we define and communicate the benefits to biodiversity and people of managed wetlands?
- How can wetlands be used this way without compromising water quality?
- How do we achieve sustainable conservation of such wetlands?
- Can farming be managed sustainably and economically in such regions?
- How do we mitigate against unintended consequences?
There are doubtless other key challenges that could be defined.
Other varieties of bioremediation using wetlands have been proposed including those associated with farm waste and even mine discharge. These tend to employ constructed wetlands. The River Ingol project utilises a natural wetland.
We recommend you start by taking a look at the short introductory videos below, and browsing some of the other supporting documents provided.
Over the 3-day enviroSPRINT, Teams rapidly investigated their Challenge area, identified a key problem and innovated potential solutions. The Teams demonstrated a prototype of their solution to a panel of expert judges who assessed the novelty and feasibility of the concept, along with the quality of the presentation, and selected a winner (★). Alongside this, each Team produced a 90-second summary of their idea to share with a wider audience. These can be viewed on the Team pages:
We are grateful to have the support of our expert panel:
Dr Lydia Burgess-Gamble – Principal Scientist, Flood Risk Management research team, Environment Agency
Lydia has been working at the Environment Agency for over 18 years in a wide range of flood risk management roles. For the last 8 years she has been working in a Flood Risk Research team where she led the production of the Natural Flood Management evidence base. She is now managing a project to collate a carbon offsetting evidence base to inform the development of the Environment Agency’s carbon offsetting strategy.
Dr Joe Butler – Finance and Project Development Analyst, Sizewell C, EDF
Joe has worked in the energy industry for over 7 years and joined EDF in 2017 through their graduate programme. This has included roles across customer retail energy supply, wholesale power markets and new nuclear build. Joe is now working on the Sizewell C project – a proposed new nuclear project in Suffolk – and wider initiatives workstream. This includes project managing the development of the Sizewell Clean Energy Hub (integration of hydrogen generation and direct air [carbon] capture) as well as the NetZero Leiston project, aiming to become the UK’s first net zero town.
Dr Jo-Anne Pitt – Senior Specialist, Air, Land and Water Research Team, Environment Agency
Jo is a freshwater ecologist/ environmental scientist and over many years has worked on practical application of science to the management of nutrient enrichment in lakes, rivers and wetlands. This includes lake restoration projects, setting of environmental standards, development of ecological assessment tools and design of national monitoring programmes.
Dr Jonah Tosney – Operations Director, Norfolk Rivers Trust
Jonah is a river ecologist, with a background in conservation and research. He has previously worked with Wester Ross Fisheries Trust, University of Highlands and Islands, Yorkshire Water and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Jonah leads and oversees many of our projects, from design through to implementation.