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The importance of water stewardship and collaborating for change

Gully blocking peat dam in the Peak District

As we begin 2024, we reflect upon progress made in our water stewardship activities and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead in the new year. It's important to acknowledge the remarkable moment of COP28 back in November, when the presidency said there was "no path" to achieving global climate goals without progress on water, nature, food, and agriculture. That's why, in December, COP dedicated a day of discussion to water and we saw the UK government commit up to £39 million in new funding to help manage water resources responsibly and see water upheld as a priority across the globe.

The three priorities discussed were restoring freshwater ecosystems such as rivers, making cities more resilient, bolstering food systems, and the need to focus on agriculture.

It is estimated that by 2030 there will be a 40 per cent shortfall in freshwater supply, which will impact people, planet, and nature1. That's why we're on a mission – alongside others – to make sure water insecurity remains high on the agenda, not just in the UK, but also across the globe.

Sphagnum in moorland

Sphagnum in moorland (c) Moors for the Future Partnership

Coming together to lead the way

At Nestlé Waters, we've been leading the way when it comes to credible water stewardship for many years. We understand how precious water is and protecting it for future generations is at the heart of everything we do and plan for.

Nestlé Waters is part of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) – a global collaboration between businesses, NGOs and the public sector, which focuses on contributing to the sustainability of local water recourses. In 2021, our bottling site in Buxton was awarded platinum AWS Standard certification – a top score for water stewardship. Collaboration is vital at every level to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to stay true to our word on protecting water resources. As well as supranational alliances, local partnerships are just as important when it comes to caring for the water beneath our feet and making a tangible difference to communities, landscapes, and habitats on the ground.

Combs Moss

Focusing on water locally

Nestlé Waters has strong community relationships, which we leverage to support water regeneration projects across the Peak District, where we bottle Buxton natural mineral water and Nestle Pure Life spring water at source. Each project is designed to care for water and protect the sustainability of the water balance in the local area.

Most recently, we have joined forces with the Environment Agency, Severn Trent, landowners Harris & Sheldon Group, and the Moors for the Future Partnership to help restore Combs Moss, in the upland moors of the Peak District. This innovative restoration project includes planting 187 hectares of land with sphagnum moss and 34 hectares with vascular plug plants, and gully blocking using solutions such as peat dams. This work will enable water to be held on the moorland for longer, slowing the flow of water from the moor and mitigating the risk of flooding in Buxton town, where flooding has previously occurred along the convergence of two brooks which are of ongoing concern. The restoration will also help increase biodiversity, resilience to wildfires, and carbon capture in the area (peat is the biggest store of carbon in the UK). Healthy peat moors also help provide good quality drinking water which is extremely important since 70% of our drinking water comes from these landscapes.

We've also worked with the Japanese Knotweed Agency to remove Japanese Knotweed at the Cowdale Quarry, a land owned by us and managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. It's the UK's no.1 invasive and non-native species and it's every landowner's responsibility to remove it from their land. We've decided to work with the Japanese Knotweed Agency as they use an innovative, chemical-free and wildlife friendly solution to eradicate the weed.

We're also working with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Wild Trout Trust, and the Chatsworth House to improve biodiversity, water quality and ecological status of the River Ecclesbourne in Derbyshire. Work was needed to re-meander a section of the river back to its original course and bypass a weir that was preventing fish migration since 18th century. The construction is now complete, opening over 28km of river for many fish species.

Gully blocking peat dam in the Peak District

River Ecclesbourne (c) Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Looking ahead

In 2024 and beyond, partnerships will remain integral to our strategy. We've made good progress at our Buxton site and the catchment level and intend to continue this work, as well as continuing the work we have begun at our bottling site in Princes Gate, Pembrokeshire.

Water stewardship has been a priority for a long time for everyone at Nestlé Waters, and we know that sharing what we've learnt so far both within our organisation and externally, can help to continue to build momentum. But we also know we don't have all the answers and will continue to build our knowledge and identify new ways to do more by working closely with our partners and others. It's only through collaborating in this way that we can achieve the ambitions discussed at COP and ensure water security is preserved for future generations.