Natural environment

Protect and enhance the natural environment and the services it provides.

For us the natural environment covers everything in the landscape around us: the rivers and streams, lakes and seas and the open countryside that provide habitats for wildlife and the natural support systems human beings depend on.

To deliver our duty as a public authority under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 we work to protect and enhance the natural environment.

Following the launch of the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper in June 2011, outlining their vision for the natural environment over the next 50 years, we have developed a UU Natural Environment Strategy.

Our strategy commits us to:

  • aim to comply with all national and international natural environment legislation, either directly or through our contractors / partners
  • integrate the management of the natural environment into business as usual activities
  • communicate, share and embed where possible best practice across UU employees, partners and contractors
  • work with partners and stakeholders to actively inform and influence future developments affecting the natural environment and United Utilities, based on sound evidence

The very nature of our business means we are acutely aware of our responsibility to the environment. This is why we are committed to protecting and enhancing habitats and wildlife across our operations to have a positive impact on the natural environment of the North West.

  • Managing our woodlands

    As a major owner of woodland we manage our trees in sustainable way to protect water quality, conservation, access, recreation and timber.

    We have been Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certified since 2003. The FSC-UK forest management standard endorses the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) and this certification covers all 4336 hectares of our woodland estate.

    UKWAS offers a benchmark for sustainable management against which performance can be measured. The intention is to employ good stewardship from planting through to the end user who can purchase forest produce at the end of a guaranteed chain of custody.

    We have recently undergone our annual FSC® surveillance through SGS, our external auditor. Some of our stakeholders were contacted as part of this surveillance, and we would like to thank them for helping with the process.

    You can find details on where you can enjoy some of our woodlands on our out and about pages.

    Our certificate number is SGS-FM/COC-001381

    Our License code FSC-C005555

  • Shale gas

    Gas extraction from shale rock, using the process called fracking, continues to generate considerable debate. The North West potentially holds vast quantities of shale gas, and we have been investigating what extraction might mean for water quality and water resources in our region.

    The first concern is that fracking uses huge amounts of water. The second is the worry that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater supplies. Finally, queries have been raised on how flowback is treated and returned safely to watercourses.

    Our view on shale gas extraction (PDF 65 KB opens in new window) remains unchanged – public health is our top priority and we expect that Government support for fracking will result in a robust regulatory regime that will ensure public water supplies are protected.

  • Environmental partnerships

    Natural Course: this is the UK's first EU LIFE Integrated Project that builds capacity to protect and improve the North West water environment, now and for the future. It's a project between us, the Environment Agency, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Rivers Trust and Natural England.

    Groundwork: we continued to work in partnership with this social and environmental charity to deliver community projects in neighbourhoods where our engineers were working on potentially disruptive capital schemes. This partnership delivers projects including training and employment programmes, play areas, community allotments, sustainability programmes and community cohesion projects with positive social impacts in every local authority region in the North West of England.

    LOVEmyBEACH: this joint project between ourselves, Keep Britain Tidy, the Environment Agency and local authorities continued for another successful year. It tackles unsightly litter on our coastlines, and encourages local hoteliers and businesses not to put unsuitable materials down the loo or sink to avoid sewer blockages.

    Moors for the Future: this decade-long, wide-ranging partnership, focusing on moorland restoration, continued into its penultimate year. We remain a key partner, helping to improve the region’s moorland, especially catchment land which feeds our reservoirs, through the MoorLife 2020 project.

    RSPB: we continue to work across the region in a variety of different ways with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. For example, at Dove Stone reservoir in Saddleworth, we have a stunning, jointly-owned nature reserve and we continued to develop plans to improve the visitor experience at this popular tourist location. On our catchment lands in Bowland, Lancashire, we have worked with the RSPB to create the conditions for the threatened hen harrier to survive.

    CatchmentWise: learning lessons from our award winning water catchment management programme (SCaMP), CatchmentWise is an important programme that sees us support local groups and projects focused on improving water quality by tackling pollution at source.

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