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Exmoor Mires Project Springs into action

image depicting Cotton grass at Aclands
Cotton grass at Aclands
The Exmoor Mires Project got back to work this Spring with the aim of restoring over 500 hectares of peatland this year.

The work, which is funded by South West Water, Natural England and the Environment Agency, involves blocking drainage ditches and re-wetting the bogs using peat and wood blocks and moor-grass bales.

A site at Burcombe has already been completed and work is underway at Spooners, both near Simonsbath.

The project has multiple benefits for wildlife, landscape, historic environment and access. But the main reason for South West Water's involvement is to re-wet the upland bogs, slowing down water run-off, storing drinking water supplies and carbon and improving raw water quality, which in turn should make it cheaper for the water company to treat. These benefits can then be passed on to customers.

One aim is to enable landowners to become carbon traders, because by allowing the re-wetting of the bogs, the land is in effect storing carbon instead of it blowing away and polluting the atmosphere. In time this could become a valuable income for landowners.

The main physical aspect of the work involves blocking the ditches, some times creating small pools of water where Sphagnum moss can form. If you visit a restored bog, such as the area at Aclands, you will quickly see a far greater variety of plants, insects and animals than we have become used to seeing on Exmoor, where purple moor grass (sedge) has come to dominate in recent years.

From the speckles of white cotton heads to carpets of red and green Sphagnum moss and more showy specialists such as the devil's bit scabious, retaining the water has brought back the plants, insects and animals we all love to see on our moors.

The project has made the Exmoor bogs some of the most researched peatlands in the world. Two of the sites are scientific study areas in conjunction with Exeter and other universities, where data are being collected to measure the effect of re-wetting the bogs in the long term. Studies include assessment of water storage, water quality, carbon and methane storage, and the effect on agriculture together with the general impact on flora and fauna.

Dipwells, flow meters, CO2 and methane meters nestle in the grass, recording data from the moor every 15 minutes. Combined with aerial surveys from an unmanned aerial vehicle and vegetation surveys carried out on the ground, scientists will be able to measure the impact the rewetting has on our water, our atmosphere and our plant and animal life.

If you'd like to understand more about the work to re-wet Exmoor, why not come along to Bogtastic! - a free fun-packed adventure day for all ages on Friday 31 May.

For more information please visit our website exmoormires.org.uk.

Notes to editors

1. The project has been ongoing in pilot areas since 1998, when it was begun by the Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA). South West Water took on the project and now works together with the project partners and landowners with the aim of restoring 2,000 hectares of moor.

2. South West Water provides water and sewerage services to over 1.6 million people across Devon, Cornwall and parts of Somerset and Dorset.

3. South West Water operates over 630 sewage treatment works and 29 water treatment works.

4. South West Water maintains 14,800km of public sewers and 15,101km of water mains.

5. We supply our customers with around 349 mega litres (79 million gallons) of drinking water every day.

6. On average, half a billion litres of sewage arrives at South West Water's treatment works every day.

7. In 2014 South West Water will submit its business plan for the years ahead to the UK water industry regulator Ofwat. We are inviting customers to find out more and tell us what they think our priorities should be at www.southwestwater.co.uk/waterfuture

Published: 27 March 2013

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