Bewl Water is a key source of drinking water for Kent and East Sussex, storing water that’s taken from the River Medway when flows are high. During the summer when extra water is needed, flows are released from the reservoir back into the river.
This helps ensure there is always water for all – but it also creates unnaturally fast flows in the rivers downstream. The River Bewl – which is home to important wildlife including kingfishers, dragonflies, bats and even otters - feels this most acutely.
- Erosion of the riverbanks caused by fast flows
- Deteriorating fish habitats
- Loss of river vegetation
- Higher water levels making it difficult for wildlife to find nesting spots to breed.
This is why we’re taking steps to create a more natural flow that’s closer to how nature intended. We’re also working to prevent the spread of invasive species in the area.
We’ll be working on a 3km stretch of river that runs through the grounds of Scotney Castle until spring/summer 2018. If you’re passing, feel free to stop and say hello.
- What are we doing?
- Our enhancement work will help breath new life into the River Bewl.
We’ve already carried out tree works, reducing shading and giving the river a rich boost of sunlight to encourage vegetation growth.
We’re also enhancing what’s in the river to make a safer, more appealing environment for fish, invertebrates and other wildlife. This includes:
• Using woody debris to slow flows and create more diverse habitats
• Creating safe spaces for juvenile fish and wetland features for dragonflies
• Securing fallen trees in the channel to kick-start natural processes which will clean the riverbed
• Positioning tree stumps in selected parts of the river to change flows, clearing the river bed of silt and providing cover for fish
• Piling up cut wood, up to one-metre high, to provide cover for wildlife
• Changing river banks in certain areas to narrow the channel, improving flows and encouraging wetland plants
• Creating bays to provide nursery habitat for young fish and a refuge for aquatic fauna when flows are high.
- What will the benefits be?
- The end result will be a healthier, more vibrant river for all to enjoy.
The changes we expect to see include:
• A variety of flows, pools and wet areas along the length of the river
• Increases in numbers and varieties of fish, including the wild brown trout
• Many more small mammals, insects and birds feeding, living and breeding
• Reduction of the river eroding its banks and bed
• An abundance of flowers and vegetation
• More native plants and animals, both along the river and across most of the historic parkland
• Benefits further downstream for the River Teise
- What about invasive species?
- We’re taking steps to prevent the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels, floating pennywort and New Zealand pygmyweed in the waterbodies affected by Bewl Water and associated transfers.
Aquatic invasive non native species (INNS) can cause a big problem in our rivers, waterways and reservoirs. By growing or reproducing rapidly, they can take over delicate ecosystems, resulting in serious long-term damage.
The good news is that we can all do our bit to help stop them spreading and protect the environment.
- What are invasive non native species?
- Whether they’re aquatic plants or animals, INNS are not native to the UK so have no natural predators or disease to keep them in check.
The most aggressive of these grow and spread with alarming speed and can be difficult to control and almost impossible to eradicate.
- Why is it important to stop the spread of INNS?
- Because they have no natural controls, invasive species quickly take over large areas, causing huge changes in the delicate balance of our eco systems.
Not only does this threaten the immediate survival of our native species, it causes long lasting and sometimes irreparable damage to our environment, as well as clogging pipes and damaging equipment.
- What can I do?
- Whether you’re a keen angler, a water sports enthusiast or just enjoying a family day out pond dipping – we can all help. We’re all used to taking our litter home after a day out, and helping stop the spread is just as easy.
Remember the advice - Check, Clean and Dry. Check your boats, equipment, machinery, clothing and footwear. Pay particular attention to areas that are damp or hard to inspect.
Clean and wash everything thoroughly and use any facilities that are provided for cleaning equipment. Use hot water where possible. If you do come across any invasive species, leave them at the water body where you found them.
Dry all equipment and clothing – invasive species can live for many days in moist conditions. Make sure you don’t transfer water elsewhere. Do you know your quagga mussel from your killer shrimp? Our downloadable poster has photos and descriptions of the culprits.
For more information on the national campaign go to nonnativespecies.org/checkcleandry. If you spot an invasive species, you can report it to us NNIS.Reporting@southernwater.co.uk