Yorkshire Water is one of several companies collaborating to drive the identification and delivery of improvements to Yorkshire's rivers, and we believe the rivers of Yorkshire should be as close to their natural state as possible.
In this section you'll be able to find out more about the ongoing work we're doing on river restoration and improving river water quality, and read the latest case studies on recent work we've done.
Fish passage and river restoration
Many of Yorkshire's rivers have man made obstacles such a pipes and weirs in them; marks of our long industrial history. These barriers make it very difficult for fish such as brown trout and salmon to make their journeys to and from their breeding grounds. As owners of many of these structures, Yorkshire Water is committed to providing ways for fish to pass over and around them on their journeys.
Some structures can be removed entirely and the river restored back to a more natural state. If this is not possible, for instance where a weir is used to gauge flows for flood defence purposes, then a bypass channel or fish pass may be used. We have been researching the best ways to address the barriers we own, and the first of our projects to be finished was the Rodley weir bypass channel at Rodley Nature Reserve.
Following on from the success at Rodley Nature Reserve, we have secured funding to enhance fish passage at further sites across Yorkshire. Some of these obstacles to fish passage are simple to resolve, whilst others are more complex and require thorough research and a detailed design. We have been consulting with key stakeholders such as the Environment Agency and specialist fish consultancies, to ensure that we deliver the best solution for each site.
Our work to remove obstacles to fish passage at Jordan Dam and Wharncliffe weir also contributes to the Don Catchment River Trusts 'Salmon to Sheffield' project, which aims to return salmon to Sheffield for the first time in 200 years. To read more visit the Don Catchment Rivers Trust website.
Enhancing the river environment
Increased investment in this area in 2013/14 meant we have bettered our performance on waste water treatment and therefore the water we discharge in to, and which impact upon our rivers - discharge permit compliance is at 98%, up from 97% in 2012/13.
To give us a more holistic view of our impact on rivers and the surrounding environment, we have worked with the Environment Agency to model the impact of our discharges across the region to understand the ecological implications of our discharges i.e. what is having the most impact on the biodiversity of our rivers and the surrounding lands impacted by river water quality. Together, we have defined an additional programme of environmental investment and investigation totalling over £300m for the period from 2015 to 2020.
Of course the above is on top of our 'business as usual' - we will continue our on-going capital investment programme, responding to new legislative drivers and population growth.
Below are some examples of the great work we have undertaken recently.
Cudworth Dyke river restoration project
Yorkshire Water are currently trialing an innovative project to see whether habitat restoration can improve river water quality at Cudworth Dyke near Royston in South Yorkshire. The stream, called Sandybridge Dyke, runs between Rabbit Ings Country Park and a closed municipal land fill site, through an industrial estate and into the River Dearne. It is mostly man made and in poor condition.
In 2013 we carried out an initial project to look at the pressures acting on this water way, including our own, and what could be done to improve water quality. We did this in conjunction with the Cudworth Dyke stakeholder group, our design specialists Arup and government agencies such as the Environment Agency. The research led to several proposed habitat restoration actions which we are now beginning to trial in Sandybridge Dyke.
With the kind permission and help of the landowners, The Land Trust and Barnsley Council, and also the support of Groundwork Dearne Valley who manage Rabbit Ings, construction was completed in 2014 working with Peter Brett Associates and Mott MacDonalds Bentley. This involved creating a new double meander in the dyke, altering a weir and digging out a dried reed bed to bring faster flows and more oxygen to the waters. The new river route has been designed to take key detours, so that we don't damage the existing water vole population or the favourite roosting trees of key owl species who take up residence in the winter.
We are undertaking detailed monitoring of the Dyke before, during and after the project so that we can properly assess its impact on river water quality. The data will contribute key evidence to support river restoration as a means to improve our post-industrial Yorkshire streams.
Taking responsibility for the Don
Rivers have always been essential to our region. During the industrial revolution we relied upon them for manufacturing and transport, to the extent that they became largely inhospitable to wildlife.
More recently rivers are recognised for the ecosystem services they provide, such as flood protection and a source of recreation and relaxation.
Over the past 25 years investment by water companies has transformed the water quality of our rivers. Key migratory fish have even been seen in sections, for instance sea trout have reached Shipley on the Aire and salmon are regularly seen at Sprotborough on the Don.
Yorkshire Water is one of several companies collaborating to drive the identification and delivery of improvements to Yorkshire's rivers. The River Don is of particular interest to us as it is the watercourse with the largest proportion of our waste water treatment works and other sites close to its banks.
Its catchment, i.e. the land which drains to the River Don, covers a large area including Barnsley, Chesterfield, Doncaster, Goole, Rotherham and Sheffield.
We’ve invested in various ways to deliver tOver the last 5 years we’ve invested over £150 million into improving water quality and wildlife in the Don catchment, and we expect that to increase over the next 5.hese improvements:
Catchment action planning alongside the Don Network
Projects to reduce the ammonia released from our waste water treatment works (WWTW)
Projects to reduce the chance of pollution during extreme weather events
Improvements to the river habitat
We want to focus on bringing people back to rivers to enjoy them. Helping to protect our rivers and taking care of this vital piece of Yorkshire is also a way in which we’re living up to our company Vision of “taking responsibility for the water environment for good”.
In March 2011, the Environment Minister and DEFRA commissioned a range of 25 "Catchment Pilots" across the country, to investigate and report on ways to co-ordinate catchment planning to help improve the standard of rivers. We’ve worked as a key member of the Don Pilot, within a partnership group called the Don Network.
Working alongside the Environment Agency, the Don Catchment River Trust and other local stakeholders, we have produced "Our Plan for the River Don." This document is one of the first catchment action plans of its kind, and sets recommendations for how people can work together to protect and improve the quality of the River Don and its tributaries.
The Don Rivers Trust is now starting to plan how to deliver these recommendations.
Improving river habitats
We’re currently carrying out innovative work to see whether river habitat restoration can improve river water quality.
Existing research published by the Journal of Applied Ecology suggests that restoration of rivers will deliver benefits to water quality. However, due to the long term nature of the data sets required this has only rarely been demonstrated.
Three trial sites have been identified allowing us to test a variety of restoration techniques to mitigate against water quality (Sandybridge Dyke) and flow issues (Ingbirchworth Dike and the River Washburn).
Ingbirchworth Dike and the River Washburn lie downstream of Ingbirchworth and Swinsty reservoirs respectively. Ongoing construction work is focused at creating deeper and slower channels and increasing local habitat diversity. Trees and vegetation have also been removed to allow light to reach the channels, and gravel introduced to create fish spawning habitat.
Case study at Sandybridge dyke
Sandybridge dyke is a small section of stream running through Rabbit Ings nature reserve near Royston in Barnsley, which was previously a colliery spoil heap and a closed municipal land fill site. As a result of its historical neighbours the dyke is mostly man made and in poor condition, and a perfect case study for this research.
With the kind permission and help of the landowners, The Land Trust and Barnsley Council, and with the support of Groundwork Dearne Valley who manage Rabbit Ings, we have created a new double meander in the dyke to bring faster flows and more oxygen to the waters.
We have already gathered two years of water quality data at Sandybridge dyke. As a result of this restoration we hope to see a visible increase in indicators of good water quality including; oxygen, invertebrates such as the shrimp Gammarus pulex, plants and fish, and create a more accessible stream for the visitors to Rabbit Ings to enjoy.