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. We will strive to play our part in nature recovery and the delivery of biodiversity net gain. We are currently committing to deliver improvements for biodiversity in our capital programme and across our landholdings. We recognise the additional biodiversity requirements and opportunities that will arise through the Environment Act and will ensure we meet these requirements.

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.

  • 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.

    FSC certifiction lasts for 5 years and we undergo annual survailnce through our external auditors SGS, some of our stakeholders have been and will in future be contacted as part of this survailance, we would like to thank them for helping with this 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

  • 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.

    Our view on shale gas extraction (PDF 445 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.

  • Natural Course: this is the UK's only 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.

    Rivers Trust: We have formed a strategic partnership with the Rivers Trust to work together to drive forwards the changes that are necessary to truly unlock Catchment Systems Thinking. This partnership will benefit not just customers in the North West of England but will share our learning across the country.

    Greater Manchester Trilateral: As the home to a significant number of customers, Greater Manchester has a key significance in delivering efficient and sustainable water services into the future. In order to deliver the best outcomes in terms of planning as well as benefiting from the influencing and experience of all partners, we have entered into partnership with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Environment Agency. The partnership aims to ensure progressive improvements in sustainable water management across the city region, enhancement of the natural environment and all future developments and critical infrastructure are resilient to flooding and the impact of climate change.

    Groundwork: We continue to work in partnership with this social and environmental charity to deliver community projects in neighbourhoods where our engineers are 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.

    Moors for the Future: We remain a key partner, helping to improve the region’s moorland, especially catchment land which feeds our reservoirs. Read more about this on the MoorLife 2020 webiste.

    Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB): We continue to work across the region in a variety of different ways with the RSPB. 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. We are also working closely with the RSPB to support the protection of threatened species such as on our catchment lands in Bowland, Lancashire, where we are working together to create the conditions for the hen harriers to survive.

    National Trust: In the North West of England, the National Trust is a significant land owner (53,000 hectares) and in a number of locations their estates neighbour with United Utilities estates (56,000 hectares). Over the years both organisations have worked alongside each other as part of initiatives such as, Wild Ennerdale, Moors for the Future Partnership, Pennine Prospects, High Peak Vision and Kinder Peat Restoration 2010, and co-operated on numerous land management practices or operational issues.

    CaST Account: In 2021, United Utilities created a dedicated Catchment Systems Thinking (CaST) Account, with an initial value of £300,000, to support charitable organisations in delivering catchment based projects in the North West, specifically within United Utilities operating area. Head over to the CaST Account page to read about the projects.

    To find out more about the work we deliver in partnership using a Catchment Systems Thinking Approach, head over to our Beyond Water Series pages.

Bowland, Water Industry Natural Environment Programme

Find out more about the Bowland, Water Industry Natural Environment Programme and view our peat depths dataset.

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