Importance Of Peatlands For UK Water Security Revealed

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The vital role that peatlands have to play in the water security of the UK has been demonstrated by researchers from the University of Leeds, who have developed a new global index that identifies these sources as significant for drinking water in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland (RoI).


It has been estimated that in the RoI, peatlands drinking water supports 68 per cent of the national population, or 4.22 million people. In the UK, 72.5 per cent of the storage capacity of our reservoirs is water from peatlands.


Published in the Nature Sustainability journal, the study analysed global peatlands, looking at data for flow into drinking water supplies and their proximity to people, with the index working out the amount of drinking water from peatlands and places where populations may come to be reliant on this particular source of water.


In many regions, it was found that large peatlands around the world with high water content were too far from people to provide major sources of drinking water. But some hotspots were identified where peatlands are in fact crucial in this regard.


The majority of these were in the British Isles, where around 85 per cent of global drink water sourced directly from peatlands is consumed. What this means, the study stressed, is that peatland conservation is essential across the UK and Ireland to help protect our water supplies.


Co-author of the study professor Joseph Holden said: “Globally only 28 per cent of peatlands that supply drinking water to large populations are pristine or protected. In the UK, it’s imperative that we support the great work of peatland restoration agencies and partnerships which are working with water companies to enhance the condition of our degraded peatlands.


“The UK consumes approximately 1.56 cubic kilometres of drinking water per year that has come from peatlands; that is roughly the volume of 630,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This resource supports the equivalent of 28.3 million people or more than 43 per cent of the UK’s population. Threats to peatlands could mean a significant threat to the UK’s water security.”


The International Union for Conservation of Nature UK Peatland Programme announced back in May that £10 million worth of government grants have been awarded for work on peatlands, with an area the size of 10,000 football pitches set to be restored to peat-forming condition.


Not only are fens and peat bogs essential habitats that provide wildlife with food and shelter, they can also help to play a part in climate regulation, while improving water quality and supporting flood management. The work will help to abate and store an estimated 23,000 tonnes of carbon each year, which will contribute to the UK’s climate change goals.


Are you interested in finding out more about commercial water conservation? Get in touch with us here at H2O Building Services to see how we can help.