Yorkshire Water supported the study released on Wednesday which looked at the impacts of heather burning on the wider environment.
I contacted Yorkshire Water and was impressed by their speed of reply. My first contact was with a young lady called Brook with whom I was allowed to chat online – this was an excellent way to ask my questions about the Leeds University study. Not surprisingly, Brook , who I imagine is more often dealing with complaints about bills or supply, didn’t have all the answers to hand but she promised to pass on my details and that I would be contacted.
I find this is often the kiss of death to any enquiry to a large corporate, but Yorkshire Water got back to me quickly to say they couldn’t get back to me quickly with a full answer – I understood that. But they did get back to me by the end of Wednesday afternoon with this and they are happy for me to share it with you:
‘As promised, below is an explanation of our position on peatlands and their effect on our reservoirs. Excuse the long response but I hope you appreciate it’s a complicated issue.
45% of Yorkshire Water’s supplies derive from internationally important peatland uplands that drain into our reservoirs. Over the last 30 years the colour in the water has increased, caused by degraded peat. Increased colour in the water costs more to remove in the treatment process so high quality drinking water can be produced for our customers.
We have commissioned extensive research into the cause of the increased colour, including work with Leeds and other universities. The key factors are moorland drainage; overgrazing; historic atmospheric pollution and finally heather burning. All have increased colour but the impact of burning was less certain. The conclusions from EMBER add to the evidence base that current management by burning is having an adverse effect.
Whilst banning heather burning may seem a logical step, it does not address the more fundamental issue; the need to conserve and enhance active blanket bog and meet the needs for biodiversity, farming, grouse management and water quality management in terms of colour. We have been working closely over the last 6 months with Natural England, the Moorland Association, RSPB and the Heather Trust on a solution. Through reasoned and impartial debate, all parties are now agreed that active blanket bog with a reduction in heather coverage can deliver what we all need from the uplands; Biodiversity, Water, Carbon, Sheep and Grouse. Active blanket bog with an abundance of sphagnum and other peat forming mosses will sustain the heather needed for grouse, but it will not grow as vigorously, and will therefore require far less burning, if any. We believe this is a significant change in the future management of these incredibly important habitats and something that would not have happened if the call to ban heather burning immediately was implemented.
Over the last 4 years we have applied the research findings and invested in moorland restoration by blocking man made moorland drains and revegetating bare peat in the worst areas. Over the next six years we will be investing further to secure the quality of the water draining into our reservoirs by further moorland restoration.‘.[registration_form]