Moorland pilot project to create natural flood defence

This is an archived press release

Tuesday 5 October 2010

30 September 2010

Peak District pilot project to strengthen natural defence against flooding

Making Space for Water, a pilot project launched by Moors for the Future in partnership with the Environment Agency, aims to demonstrate how our natural moorland resources can help to protect against flooding.

Thousands of people rely on rainwater from the Peak District moors for their daily drinking water but sometimes, as in the floods that poured through Sheffield, Chesterfield and Derby in 2007, it can be too much of a good thing.

Working with researchers from Manchester University Upland Environments Research Unit, the Making Space for Water Project is investigating a new approach to flood management through re-vegetating degraded moorland to slow the run-off into water-courses during heavy rainstorms.

Lord Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, helped launch the project in the Derwent Valley, where restoration work in the upper reaches could reduce the impact of flooding downstream as far away as Matlock and Derby.

Lord Smith said: “The moors play an important natural role in reducing the risk of flooding. They absorb, retain and slowly release rain or floodwater, easing river water levels at critical times. Protecting moors through schemes like this could ensure they continue to help manage flood risk, as climate change is likely to bring more intense rainfall and resulting floods.”

The team will be working on an 89 hectare (220 acre) site on the Kinder Plateau, one of the most degraded areas of the Peak District, and one well known to walkers for its inhospitable terrain and weather.

Work will include blocking some of the deep gullies in the peat where excess rainwater quickly runs off the plateau into local rivers, as well as re-establishing moorland plants that absorb moisture and carbon, which is hoped to help tackle climate change.

Moorland erosion has been caused by wild fires, acid rain pollution from nearby cities, the harsh upland climate, over-grazing and visitor pressure. It means that soil both blows away in the wind, and seeps away as sediment into streams, rivers and reservoirs.

Besides reducing flooding, the Making Space for Water demonstration project is hoped to benefit biodiversity, water quality (both domestic and for fisheries), carbon retention, agriculture and tourism.

Making Space for Water is one of three similar pilot projects nationwide to receive a total £1m Defra funding - the others are Slowing the Flow in North Yorkshire, and Source to Sea in Somerset.

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This is an archived press release

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