Wet and wild…and clever — Norfolk Rivers Trust create wetland water treatment facility for Anglian Water

Jayne Mann


Norfolk Rivers Trust have created an innovative, natural treatment plant for over a million litres of water a day to help improve the quality of water that is returned to the River Ingol, one of Norfolk's precious chalk streams. It's the first of its kind in England and lies over one-hectare of land, creating a natural filter system where used but treated water will pass through the wetland to be further filtered and cleaned before it’s returned to the environment in the River Ingol in Norfolk. The project has been funded by Anglian Water and was created in partnership with Norfolk Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency. The natural filtering process further improves the quality of water being returned to the river, benefiting the whole of the River Ingol, which is a spring-fed chalk stream. Aside form having a practical purpose the wetland is a huge biodiversity asset attracting breeding birds, amphibians, bats, water voles to the local environment. The wetland site has been constructed by the Norfolk Rivers Trust. The trust will also operate and maintain the site on a day to day basis. Regan Harris from Anglian Water said: “This is a really exciting project to be involved in. Wetland treatment sites like this enable us to treat used water to the same high standards as our conventional sites while vastly reducing our carbon footprint, costs and most importantly, enhancing the local environment and ecosystems.” The £500,000 project is made up of four shallow interconnected ponds which have been planted with native chalk wetland species such as iris, sedges, rush, marsh marigold and watercress. The plants work to naturally clean the water, removing ammonia and phosphate before it goes back into the river. Anglian Water’s existing treatment plants already remove the majority of these substances in line with tight environmental permits issued by the Environment Agency. The wetland filters it further to ensure it is of an even higher standard, removing the need for expensive, high carbon treatment equipment conventionally used. Regan continued: “Chemicals like phosphates and ammonia come from urbanisation, domestic products like detergents, as well as from human and animal waste. We need to find more natural ways to treat them rather than adding more and more chemicals in our treatment processes, which is unsustainable. So the wetland is a great solution. “It’s excellent for biodiversity, and does this job for us naturally. We’re already looking at where we can make a scheme like this commonplace as a water treatment option in the future as it’s an excellent example of how by working together, we can provide innovative solutions for our treatment processes, ensure they are sustainable for future generations and protect the environment.” Although the wetland plants are still young, they will be fully established by the end of this summer and will work to remove the substances from the water immediately. It will treat over a million litres of water a day before it flows back into the river. Jonah Tosney, Project Manager at Norfolk Rivers Trust said ‘We created a similar wetland system at Northrepps, near Cromer, in 2014, working closely with the local community. The result has been simply fantastic, with much improved water quality in the River Mun, a lake downstream as well as increased biodiversity. The wetlands starts to work almost immediately and we have shown these natural systems are great solutions to protect and improve the environment’. The River Ingol is one of Norfolk’s precious chalk streams which are renowned for their rich and diverse species that live within them. Since 2012, Norfolk Rivers Trust has led many projects across the country aimed at protecting and reestablishing these unique habitats.
Photo credit: Norfolk Rivers Trust
Back to top