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Water

Seventy per cent of the UK’s drinking water comes from the uplands and the Moorland Association takes the responsibility for its protection very seriously.

As peat soils dry out through drainage, wildfires, or over dominance of shrubby plants like heather, peat, and the carbon stored in it, can be washed into water courses. This turns water brown and can cost water companies – and their customers – large sums of money to remove the discolouration to meet drinking water standards.

Land managers have a key role to play in understanding the interactions between vegetation management and water catchments to minimise colour run-off reaching reservoirs. There are few tools at their disposal, but careful use of, and in combination, burning, mowing and grazing patterns can be sympathetically deployed.

Slowing the flow, reducing erosion of peat and introducing Sphagnum moss has improved water quality on this water catchment site also managed for grouse and sheep grazing.

Slowing the flow, reducing erosion of peat and introducing Sphagnum moss has improved water quality on this water catchment site also managed for grouse and sheep grazing.

As with carbon capture, good moorland water quality depends on a layer of Sphagnum moss acting as a protective cloak between peat and other taller plants. Sphagnum not only slows water flow across the surface – potentially mitigating against flash flooding further downstream – it also filters out any colour along the way. Read more about grouse moor management and flooding.

Many of our projects, including bare peat vegetation, drain blocking and raising the moor’s water table help reduce the erosion of peat into water courses and encourages Sphagnum to grow – and filter the water for free.

Moorland Association works with Natural England, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities and peatland restoration partnerships to find workable conservation solutions, while securing the long-term future of grouse moor management and agriculture on the land.

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Did You Know?

75% of Europe’s remaining upland heather moorland is found in the UK – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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Moorland Association vice-chairman on BBC Radio 4 Today The curlew is one of the UK’s most endangered bird species. Yet it is thriving on grouse moors thanks to skilled land management. Tom Orde-Powlett, Moorland Association vice-chairman and land manager at Bolton Castle estate explains on Radio 4’s Today programme why the curlew is doing so well on heather moorland.

Key scientific reports shine new light on value of heather burning A dossier of new evidence on peatland protection has highlighted a raft of scientific findings that could help shape future conservation of some of the UK’s most iconic landscapes. New research on key issues including carbon storage, water quality, biodiversity and wildfire reveals that conclusions drawn from previous science are now out of date and […]

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