Water giant backs birds, blooms and beasties in the Borders

by Scott Douglas

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Scottish Water is holding back a million pounds project to upgrade Borders reservoirs while contractors wait on a group of swallow chicks to fly the nest.

Contractor Black & Veatch will delay the programme of work for up to 12 weeks, while the nesting swallows rear their young and they migrate to the African sun. Often swallows can rear two groups of young within a season.

All birds and their nests, whilst in use, are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Contracts Manager, Charlie Bull is happy to put a hold on the work while the chicks prepare for the migration challenge:

“During initial site surveys on the Talla Reservoir upgrade we found a swallow nest located in one of the tower shafts. Scottish Water takes advice from a number of organisations in preparation for such projects. Protecting the natural environment and ecosystems is an important part of what we do.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the local community for their co-operation and patience while we wait on these young chicks growing up and migrating with the rest of the swallow population.”

One organisation which is clearly delighted with Scottish Water’s approach is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The RSPB’s James Reynolds praised the contractor Black & Veatch and Charlie’s team for their efforts:

“Swallows are a classic signifier of summer in the British Isles, and their presence is enjoyed by so many people as they whiz through the sky and collect insects to feed their young. They have a strong bond and association with man, using our buildings as the perfect place safe from predators to build their nests, so it is great to see them being appreciated in this way.”

This is just one of a number of such projects across the Borders in which Scottish Water has paid particular attention to the local wildlife, protecting natural ecosystems.

As part of the £25 million investment to provide clearer, fresher drinking water to 80,000 customers across the Borders, Scottish Water is doing everything possible to protect the sizeable otter population near the Howden Water Treatment Works. An artificial holt is located near the works.

The International Otter Survival Fund is a Scottish charity, set up to protect otters in their natural environment around the world. The organisation’s Grace Yoxon is commending Scottish Water’s work, protecting the otter’s natural environment across Scotland:

“Because the otter lives on land and in the water and is at the peak of the food chain it is an ambassador species to a first class environment.  The International Otter Survival Fund is delighted to see the positive attitude of Scottish Water in working to conserve otters and their habitat.”

A variety of rare plant life, fish and mammals are being protected as part of the £15 million project to improve the quality of drinking water to around 42,000 people in the Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso and St Boswells area. Three plants will be combined into one with sites at Acreknowe and Dodburn made redundant by autumn 2009, with the fully refurbished Roberton Water Treatment Works providing clearer, fresher drinking water across the region.

Species of ranunculus, known as water crowfoot, are among the plant life which will be taken into account during work in this Special Area of Conservation. The Tweed is one of the world’s most significant salmon rivers and Scottish Water is taking significant steps to protect the quality of the river as part of this improvement scheme.

The sensitive environment of the Allan Water Hillhead site of special scientific interest (SSSI) will also be taken into consideration when a new water pipeline is laid in the area. The site is of national importance because it contains species only found in the Brecklands of Norfolk and the Silurian grasslands of Wales.

As part of this project, Scottish Water has been working closely with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The organisation’s operational manager for the Borders, Andrew Panter, welcomes Scottish Water’s acknowledgement of the need to conserve the beautiful Borders environment:

“The River Tweed is internationally recognised as a clean river system with important fish populations. It also plays a key part in tourism and the economy of the area. Allan Water Hillhead is an unusual area of grassland with plants and butterflies rare in the Borders. It is up to all of us to make sure that these important areas are looked after. We were glad to see that Scottish Water consulted SNH at an early stage and were very open to accommodating the natural heritage when planning their operations.”

Across the country, Scottish Water Environmental Manager Claire Chapman and her team are playing a significant part in protecting rare and endangered species. Clare’s delighted to have the support of a number of organisations as Scottish Water carries out this important work:

“Right across Scotland the environment team is working hard to ensure the safety and integrity of rare and protected species. We liaise with a number of organisations from SEPA and SNH to local groups such as angling associations, resident groups and local area partnerships to deliver the best possible solution both for customers and the environment.”

Craig Lawson, Scottish Water’s Regional Manager for the Borders believes that while the majority of customers across the region know about our £25 million investment to improve the quality of drinking water, they may be unaware of the important work carried out to protect the local environment while these projects are carried out.                                                     

Craig is confident customers will appreciate these projects all the more for understanding exactly what is happening in the background:

“Special consideration of the natural environment is taken wherever we carry out investment. These projects become all the more significant to local residents when they understand that special precautions are taken to protect local plants, fish and mammals.

“Already throughout the Borders our customers are noticing and appreciating clearer, fresher drinking water, a cleaner environment, reduced risk of flooding and a faster, more efficient response to problems around the clock. The needs of Scottish Water’s customers are uppermost in our minds in delivering these projects, however, we realise that huge amounts of effort and investment are still required in order that we continue to meet the needs of local communities and the local environment.”

Ends

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