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Protecting our invisible resource – the water beneath our feet

water in landscape
Hayley Lloyd House, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Affairs for Nestlé Waters UK, writes about the work being done to protect the water beneath our feet, a precious, often 'invisible' water and its impact on the land.

Buxton, in the heart of the beautiful Peak District, is home to some of the UK’s finest mineral and spring water resources. The landscape provides the perfect topography for rainwater to be filtered through the bedrock, become mineralised and create great tasting, pure natural waters. Buxton natural mineral water rises to the surface naturally as pure, natural mineral water; a process which takes around 5,000 years. 

This rainwater has filtered through the layers of rock, unseen hundreds of metres below ground, but always connected to the land above. It is vital we do everything we can to protect not only the water but the land where it falls and flows. This is a shared resource and so we have a shared responsibility to protect it. 

At Nestlé, we are working with our neighbours, other groups and organisations, including our partners in the wider community, to restore and protect local landscapes to benefit everyone in the town and beyond.   

Natural Flood Management to protect Buxton town centre and community 

Buxton is surrounded by steep hills and during prolonged rainfall, the water can flow rapidly into the River Wye, causing the river to burst its banks near the centre of the town, affecting everyone who lives and works there.  

We are investing in a natural flood management project which involves investigating a number of nature-based solutions that could help to slow down the flow of water and reduce the likelihood of flooding. The options being explored include building leaky dams, targeted tree planting and creating new ponds. These interventions can help to retain as much water as possible within the landscape, slowing the water down as it flows into the lower part of the catchment towards the town. These solutions will also help increase biodiversity and carbon capture in the area.

We can’t do this work alone, so this project involves working hand in hand with our neighbouring landowners, local expert groups, government bodies and local organisations. 


Continuous improvement in water stewardship 

Last year, our Buxton site achieved the prestigious Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard certified with the highest level platinum status. The AWS Standard is the international accredited standard for measuring responsible water stewardship across social, cultural, environmental, and economic criteria.

We are the first brand and first manufacturing site to be awarded this in the whole of the UK. I am extremely proud of this outstanding achievement and everyone in the team that has made this possible. This is tremendous recognition for the hard work and passion over many years to care for water in efficient, effective and sustainable ways. It is also recognition for the impact this important work has on the wider catchment; the River Wye and parts of the Peak District.  

This accreditation couldn’t be achieved alone. A team from Nestlé Waters used their strong relationships within the community to start projects with organisations across the Peak District designed to care for water use and improve water efficiency, as well protecting the water balance in the local area. 

Now we have this accreditation, the work does not stop here and we can’t be complacent. We are continuing to learn and improve in order to maintain this high standard for the benefit of the water catchment area. The AWS standard has become our new water stewardship foundation and we are committed to doing the right thing for our catchment and beyond, stewarding resources in the best way we can. Globally, Nestlé Waters’ ambition is for all our sites to be accredited by AWS by 2025. Planning and preparations are now underway to have our Princes Gate site in Pembrokeshire, Wales certified. 

princes gate site

Having a positive impact 

We have partnered with The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to protect some of the landscapes we own in Derbyshire. The Trust has been managing the land at the former Lightwood Reservoir site for two years and have recently begun managing our Cowdale quarry site. The sites are important areas for both nature and the local community. The Trust has agreed to manage them, using its expertise to protect and improve biodiversity across the variety of habitats, creating nature corridors and keeping these spaces connected for the benefit of the wildlife that make homes there today, while providing safe havens into the future. 

It’s not just in the Peak District that we are working hard to make a difference. At our Princes Gate site in beautiful Southwest Wales we are working with locals farmers to protect the local area and reduce the use of nitrates discharged into the environment. In the field adjacent to our factory site where the mineral water is abstracted, the team has transformed the field, restoring it to a wildflower meadow. The meadow is now home to beehives and through wildflower restoration, is acting as a pollen source for bees. We are continuously exploring ways to increase biodiversity across our locations and landscapes.

We will continue to collaborate and use our expertise to manage water sustainably and advance the regeneration of these local water cycles to help nature retain more water than the business uses in its opertaions by 2025.

Our projects will be measurable, using the World Resources Institute's Volumatric Water Benefit Accounting (VWBA) methodology. This provides consistency in analyzing water management activities and helps to ensure that our projects address current and future shared water challenges.

We only have one world. And we are committed to playing an important part in helping protect and restore these areas above ground, to help protect the precious natural water sources below ground for generations to come.