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Water and wetlands in England

Panoramic view, Ouse Washes RSPB reserve

Image: Andy Hay

Many poems, pictures and legends have celebrated England's wetlands, from the Somerset Levels and Moors to the Norfolk Broads. They are places where people have worked and lived for centuries, learning to respect the movement of water and the abundance of food, fuel and protection that watery places can bring.

After decades of wetland habitat and species decline, the 21st century is seeing the start of what could be a wonderful wetland revival. Nature conservation organisations, water companies, landowners, farmers and local communities are recognising the value that such landscapes can bring.

Restoring a lost inheritance

We buy existing wetlands but we also restore drained wetlands to their former glory.

Lakenheath Fen nature reserve in East Anglia - previously a carrot field - is a fantastic example of the kind of new waterscapes we would like to see across the country.

Our new project to restore 900 hectares (ha) (2,223 acres) of saltmarsh and mudflat at Wallasea Island in Essex is one of the most ambitious habitat re-creation schemes in Europe.

Meanwhile the Ouse Fen (previously known as Needingworth) reserve in Cambridgeshire is replacing 700 ha (1,729 acres) of gravel extraction with a beautiful wetland complex.

Influencing policy

As well as safeguarding reserves, we also want to improve what happens in the wider countryside and make sure that funding is available to achieve this. In England, this means influencing the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which decides water management policy.

We work closely with the Environment Agency on flood management, abstraction and pollution control, and with Natural England on improving the condition of protected wetlands. We also advocate to these and other government authorities to improve the UK's performance in water management.

Together with Natural England, the Environment Agency, The Wildlife Trusts and English Heritage, we are promoting a vision for the future of England's wetlands, which will help to translate our ambitions into reality.

The Blueprint for Water campaign

We have joined forces with a wide range of conservation and angling bodies to produce a Blueprint for Water that sets out the 10 steps to sustainable water management. These include restoring rivers and floodplains, making polluters pay and supporting water-friendly farming.