Suffolk leading the way in UK’s water conservation


New scheme based in Felixstowe reuses over 800,000 tonnes of water.

water being pumped as part of project

Since its launch in February 2021 a unique scheme to the UK, based in Felixstowe, has saved over 800,000 tonnes of water being lost to the North Sea - and reused it to grow Suffolk crops.

Drainage water has traditionally been pumped away to the River Deben and North Sea, damaging saltmarsh along the way. Instead, it is now pumped back inland, conserving the saltmarsh and refilling 14 reservoirs, which six local farms are using to irrigate their crops.

Last week (9-10 June 2022) local landowners and national organisations were invited to visit the site, to hear first-hand from the scheme’s operators, Felixstowe Hydrocycle, and from farmers who are benefitting from the scheme.

Organised by Suffolk County Council, working with the Environment Agency and University of East Anglia as key partners of the project, the event aimed to inspire more schemes to be trialled around Suffolk, the UK and Europe.

One of the local beneficiaries of the project is Home Farm Nacton’s Director, Andrew Williams:

“The attraction of this project was affordable and sustainable water. All the landowners are of a similar mindset, they understand that we’ve all got to get our share of this water. It’s a project for the future, but even last year when water was pumped into us as our reservoirs went down, it gives you the confidence that you can get through the season and give the crops everything they need – it’s already been extremely beneficial.”

Councillor Steve Wiles, County Councillor for Felixstowe Coastal and Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Cabinet Member for Highways, said:

“I’m extremely proud that Suffolk and the council is a national leader with projects like this. I’m grateful for the vision and commitment shown by all the partners and landowners who are making this a success.

“Our region is a dry place and already faces challenges with its water supply – it’s estimated that by 2050 we’ll need to double our supply if we continue to use water at the current rate. Any way that we can conserve water is crucial and if we can do this whilst supporting our farmers and landowners, then it reaffirms Suffolk’s importance to providing for the UK.

“This project epitomises the council’s ambition to protect and enhance our environment. It also complements our aim for the authority, and Suffolk, to be Net Zero by 2030. Sustainable projects like this really do confirm how Suffolk can be the greenest county.”

Suffolk leading the way in UKs water conservationThe Felixstowe scheme is one of only four being trialled across Europe, overseen by FRESH4Cs, a cooperation project between 10 UK, Belgian and Dutch partners. FRESH4Cs has received funding from the Interreg 2 Seas programme 2014-2020 co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

The drainage water is sourced from the Kingsfleet near Felixstowe and travels along a 12km pipeline to local farms where it is stored in existing reservoirs ready for irrigation. The pipeline route has been carefully plotted to avoid areas of conservation and archaeological sites.

Bastiaan Notebaert, water innovator at the Belgian organisation, Vlakwa, and FRESH4Cs lead partner, said:

“This project has the potential to change the way we use our freshwater supplies and will particularly benefit farmers and their communities. We aim to provide sustainable freshwater supplies to coastal areas across Europe by trialling schemes, such as this one in Felixstowe. I’d like to thank all the partners in Suffolk for embracing this innovation and being part of something ground-breaking for our natural environment and for future generations.”