World Wetlands Day: how corporations can shape the future of UK wetlands

Wetlands are an important and multi-functional, natural solution to a host of pressing environmental challenges. 

Matthew Woodard


Wetlands are an important and multi-functional, natural solution to a host of pressing environmental challenges. However, it’s estimated that “that the world has lost 50% of its wetlands… since 1900”, so now is the time to focus on restoring these important ecosystems.

Wetlands are not only key habitat sites, but they can also mitigate other risks such as flooding, especially within built-up environments. During heavy rainfall, wetlands absorb extra water leaving less to run into neighbourhoods. On top of all these reasons to support wetland creation and maintenance, they can also help ‘replenish’ or restore water to water-stressed areas. Where there’s a water-stressed area, it means there’s a lack of fresh water to meet demand which can cause lasting effects.

The Rivers Trust are working with several global organisations, in-line with their individual water strategies, to discover how wetlands can reduce fresh water scarcity, improve water quality, and contribute to meeting water replenishment targets through nature-based solutions.

Calculating the level of water replenished is a key focus for a lot of our corporate partners. Water is used in a multitude of different ways. For instance, members of the food and drink industry require a constant supply of water for their products.

2023 marks a decade of The Rivers Trust partnering with The Coca-Cola Foundation and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP). Together, along with our member trusts, we have worked on building wetlands across the UK, as well as other green infrastructure, to support their 2030 water restoration strategy.

At one of Coca-Cola’s bottling sites in Morpeth, Northumberland Rivers Trust has now built a series of 20 wetlands. The work has been a major success and has formed a solid foundation for future wetland building with local landowners. This is alongside volunteering days to plant trees and build bird hides.

Peter Kerr from Northumberland Rivers Trust praised,

“Thanks to funding from CCEP and The Coca-Cola Foundation we now have a fantastic facility that will mean local residents can come and enjoy the new wetlands, the many new trees that have been planted here and the amazing bird life that is already calling it home. The wider wetlands project is also a major step forward to supporting water stewardship and carbon sequestration in our catchment.”

Aaron Patel, Head of Public Affairs at Coca-Cola GB added,

“At Coca-Cola, we know that water is one of our planet’s most treasured resource, and our longstanding replenishment efforts have helped us deliver more water back to nature than we use in our products.

“This programme, that is implemented by The Rivers Trust, with the financial support of The Coca-Cola Foundation, is aiming to deliver nature-based solutions, such as building over 30 wetlands which can help store carbon, improve biodiversity and in some instance, help prevent flooding. Working in partnership is key to restoring these pivotal habitats.”

Morpeth Wetlands

A large focus of our corporate engagement work is also concentrated in and around the Thames basin. Identified as a water-stressed location, the area surrounding the Thames needs infrastructure such as wetlands to restore fresh water, and filter run off.

Currently Thames 21, funded by the Coca-Cola Foundation, are excavating new sites in north London after a huge success with the wetland in Broomfield Park. This park has also been a success with the local community, improving wellbeing by inviting members of the public to enjoy more time in green and blue spaces.

Broomfield Park

Another of our partners are Amazon Web Services (AWS), who announced it will be water positive by 2030, returning more water to communities than it uses in its direct operations. Together with AWS, The Rivers Trust and Action for the River Kennet (ARK) are addressing growing water scarcity and declining water quality in the Thames River basin by building two wetlands in the Kennet Valley. The wetlands will recharge nearly 600 million litres of groundwater per year and improve water quality by receiving and treating polluted runoff from farms and roadways.

“We're increasingly seeing new technologies and solutions that can fundamentally change how we address water challenges”, said Will Hewes Water Sustainability Lead at AWS.

“Working with NGOs like The Rivers Trust allows us to create long lasting and sustainable infrastructure, such as wetlands, while also giving back to nature and the local community.”

Our work with UK soft drinks manufacturer Britvic, in-line with its water stewardship plans, is now underway. This programme of work is taking place over the UK in three different sites.

Chellow Dene is located seven miles from Britvic’s factory in Leeds. Delivered by our member trust, Aire’s Rivers Trust, Britvic will support with the restoration of an existing degraded wetland as well as install a new leaky dam. Leaky dams are part of the Natural Flood Management (NFM) practices and consist of large woody debris. These help to slow the flow, store, and retain water as well as mimic the natural movement of rivers.

The second site, back in London, is three and a half miles from Britvic’s factory in Beckton. Partnering with Thames 21 and the City of London Corporation, this project aims to restore 4km of local river.

The final area of this project is near Britvic’s factory in Rugby. Here, Severn Rivers Trust will support habitat creation and other restoration projects such as tree planting, new wetlands, and floodplains.

Sarah Webster, Director of Sustainable Business at Britvic, explains,

“Water is essential to life and livelihoods and, as a soft drinks manufacturer, it’s our primary ingredient. We know that in the coming decades, water shortages will become a growing threat and it’s one we need to take as seriously as the climate crisis and the war on waste.”

The next year holds lots of exciting plans for our corporate partnerships. We continue to review and work with businesses on their water commitments, as well as push nature-based solutions such as wetlands into the spotlight. The theme for World Wetlands Day 2023 is ‘It’s time for wetland restoration’ and it’s evident that it’s a crucial time to rebuild and regrow for the future.

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