Geobags sited adjacent to Ormesby Broad

Safeguarding water supply at the Trinity Broads

Friday 13 October, 2017

The supply of drinking water from the Trinity Boards has been secured for many years to come, thanks to an innovative mud pumping project that will also protect and enhance the area’s distinctive natural environment.

As well as being one of Britain’s most important wildlife habitats, the Trinity Boards is an important source of drinking water, used by Essex & Suffolk Water to serve a large customer area including Great Yarmouth.

The Broads are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a European Special Area of Conservation (SAC), so careful consideration had to be given in order to safeguard future water supplies whilst protecting the local ecosystem.

In order to achieve this, Essex & Suffolk Water has now completed a significant investment project which has seen the removal of 10,000 cubic metres of nutrient rich mud, from shallow areas of the Broads, which had accumulated over decades.

Removing this mud will encourage the growth of water plants which provide important habitat for wildlife and will also help to maintain clear water supplies to the local water treatment works. This ambitious project involved the hydraulic pumping of approximately 50,000 cubic metres of sediment and water from shallow areas of the Broads. The material was pumped distances of up to 1km into ‘geobags’ – huge woven polypropylene bags that retained the solid material and allowed for surplus water to dissipate. This was the first time that geobags have been used for a project on this scale in the UK.  The de-watered sediment was then used as a soil improver for local farmland.

Jonathan Thompson, Project Manager for Essex & Suffolk Water said: “The completion of this project is significant as it means water supplies for Great Yarmouth and surrounding areas have been secured for many years to come, and the natural environment of the Trinity Broads is being protected. The Broads are a special place in terms of their ecology and a fantastic asset for the local area, and we were determined to preserve and enhance this as much as possible.

“The work was carefully planned with Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Natural England to prevent any disturbance to breeding birds, for which the site is so important. We would like to thank all of the stakeholders and partners for their assistance and support throughout this crucial project.”

Trinity Broads warden, Eilish Rothney said: “it has been a balancing act to ensure that the mud pumping project – which will benefit the wildlife –was carried out in a way to minimise disturbance to the wildlife. NWT and the Trinity Broads Project were closely involved with this and the contractors (Ponds UK) were excellent at adapting their working methods.

“It may take a couple of years to see the full benefits but already one area, Muckfleet mouth, has been carpeted with a rare plant, holly-leaved naiad and other rare plants have been seen there as well. This was the earliest area to be mud pumped and  I am really excited to see how the other seven bays develop.

“We have an extensive programme of conservation work to manage this beautiful and tranquil network of lakes and this project is a great complement to these activities. Improvement to the habitat not only helps the biodiversity but also the water quality benefitting users of this E&SW water supply. Anglers and other boat users will benefit from better access.”

The mud pumping project commenced on site in February 2017, and was completed in August 2017. Essex & Suffolk Water worked closely with Norfolk County Council to ensure the work was carried out in a way that minimised any inconvenience to customers and the local community.

Alongside Norfolk Wildlife Trust, other key stakeholders included the Environment Agency, Natural England and The Broads Authority. Engagement also took place with community groups, water users, landowners and farmers.

Essex & Suffolk Water, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Broads Authority, Natural England, and the Environment Agency have been working in partnership for many years to improve water quality and people’s enjoyment of the area. Activities including mud-pumping, scrub removal and managing non-native species, such as mink, have all been undertaken by the partnership.
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