UK Peatland Management | Case Study | Rezatec

Case Study

Improving the management of peatlands in the UK

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The Problem

Peatland makes up 12% of the total area of the UK but, unfortunately, 80% are in a poor condition where they have been drained or damaged by over-extraction.

The challenge is to reduce the cost of processing the water which has been polluted by running off the degraded peat land. South West Water supplies 340 million litres of water each year to 800,000 homes and 70,000 businesses in the South West of England.

Scottish Water has over 230 water treatment works supplied with water from over 400 catchments covering an area of nearly 80,000 km2. Both face an ongoing challenge to improve water quality upstream in order to reduce the rising operational cost of treatment downstream. Approximately 50% of the catchment areas are peatland or consist of soils with a high organic matter content.

The Solution

Rezatec used the free and open data from Sentinel-1 to derive a detailed map showing the extent and depth of the peat across the moorlands.

Rezatec first provided peat maps in South West England covering Exmoor and Cornwall. These two upland areas, together with Dartmoor (in Devon), are sources for 80% of the water for South West Water with an upland catchment area of around 2,000km2. Subsequently, maps were generated in Scotland covering 10,200km2 of Scottish Water catchments including a set of layers depicting anthropogenic features across c.6,000km2, including anthropogenic linear channels, peat cuttings and upland vegetation management.

The Outcome

The use of peatland maps helps both utilities to improve the quality of the peat so reducing the peat pollution and hence their costs for water treatment and recycling. It allows them to provide consumers and citizens with improved water quality. It helps them save time and cost to identify where restoration should be carried out and, as a direct consequence, their investment increases the quality of the peat leading to environmental benefits.

Combined, their efforts are considered to cut the cost of the water treatment in half; from £120 to £60 per Megalitre. The total water treatment cost is around £20m per annum of which about 95% is for water recycling costs. Between 16k and 17k Megalitre of catchment water is treated each year giving an annual saving of around £1m.

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