River restoration and erosion control specialist Salix, an RSK group company, has been awarded one of eleven innovation funds from Ofwat to support its Seagrass Seeds Recovery project. The project, led by Affinity Water, will use nature-based solutions to restore seagrass and improve estuaries and coastal waters by increasing biodiversity and absorbing carbon and nitrogen emissions. Salix is one of ten partners working on the venture. The team will receive £250,000 in funding as part of a £200 million initiative to grow the water sector’s capacity to innovate in order to meet the needs of customers, society and the environment.

Established by Ofwat, the water services regulation authority in England and Wales, the Innovation in Water Challenge aims to support projects that present an innovative approach to the evolving challenges faced by the water sector. Identifying five key strategic innovation themes, the Innovation in Water Challenge awards funding to projects related to these issues that could deliver value for customers, society and the environment.

The topics identified are: responding and adapting to climate change; restoring and improving the ecological status of water environments; understanding resilience and infrastructure risks; testing new ways of carrying out core activities; and exploring the opportunities offered by open data. Salix’s project will address the challenges associated with the restoration of water environments and will support continued adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

The Seagrass Seeds Recovery Project

Working with nine partners, including Affinity Water, Salix hopes the project will provide a blueprint for restoring seagrass across the UK. Salix will be working with Swansea University to set up a scalable seagrass nursery at a site in South Wales, with the goal of developing methods of cultivating seagrass plants and seeds. Seagrass offers potential in mitigating climate change impacts by enhancing the stability of coastal areas, efficiently locking away carbon, improving water quality and creating valuable habitats for aquatic life. By focusing on restoration, opportunities will be created for improvements to biodiversity, while simultaneously reducing carbon and nitrogen levels in the environment. The tested methods will then be used in estuarine and coastal waters and the project will offer insights into the potential of ‘blue carbon’ (carbon captured by marine ecosystems) in the water industry.

“Salix started working on seagrass cultivation with Swansea University back in 2015, so it is great to see the industry backing this project,” comments David Holland, Salix Managing Director. “We have a fantastic opportunity to be part of a major drive to restore our lost seagrass meadows and to be part of a world-leading team in this field.”

The other project partners are Anglian Water Services Ltd; the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas); the department of zoology at Wadham College, University of Oxford; the Environment Agency; Natural England; Project Seagrass; Swansea University; and the University of Essex.

For more information on the project and Salix’s involvement, please contact David Holland.