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Peatland contributions to UK water security

Date: 17 May 2018

Peatlands are vital to UK water security and must be protected to preserve the UK’s water supply, warn scientists.

water@leeds scientists from the University of Leeds have developed a new global index that identifies water supplied from peatlands as a significant source of drinking water for the UK and the Republic of Ireland .

Grimwith Reservoir © Tessa LevensThe researchers estimated that in the UK, 72.5% of the storage capacity of reservoirs is peatlands-fed water. In the Republic of Ireland, they estimated that drinking water fed by peatlands supports the equivalent of 4.22 million people – 68% of the national population.

This demonstrates the crucial role peatlands play in the water security of these countries.

Study co-author, Professor Joseph Holden, director of water@leeds said: “Globally only 28% of peatlands that supply drinking water to large populations are pristine or protected. In the UK it’s imperative that we support the great work of peatland restoration agencies and partnerships which are working with water companies to enhance the condition of our degraded peatlands.

“The UK consumes approximately 1.56 cubic kilometres of drinking water per year that has come from peatlands; that is roughly the volume of 630,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This resource supports the equivalent of 28.3 million people or more than 43% of the UK's  population. Threats to peatlands could mean a significant threat to the UK ’s water security. 

“Worldwide, predicted rising global temperatures and the draining or burning of peatlands for agriculture and industry are a real concern as degradation of these fragile ecosystems could seriously compromise the water quality peatlands provide.” Read more.