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Oyster trial launched by Water Plus to encourage innovation and help improve water quality around the UK, in industry first

A ground-breaking trial is underway involving hundreds of oysters and school pupils to encourage innovative approaches with water, while helping improve water quality and increase native species and biodiversity in the UK.

The 540 native oysters have been introduced at Oban in Scotland by Water Plus, as part of its work to explore innovative ways around how we all interact with and use water, to support organisations and the UK towards environmental aims and targets.

It’s the first of its kind to start with a water retailer. The trial will also explore how awareness around the oysters could help engage organisations more with their water use, to help reduce overall use of natural resources, including water – which, where this happens, would also help cut carbon emissions linked to all water that’s used by businesses, charities and the public sector.

The innovative initiative will involve primary school pupils, such as those from Lochaline Primary School in Morvern, who will study how the oysters grow and the biodiversity that’s encouraged by the approach. A marine scientist will also be involved in the project, looking at, with the schools, the blue carbon capture on the seabed and the oysters*. 

Andy Hughes, Chief Executive of Water Plus, said: “We’ve started this trial to explore, in more detail, the benefits and opportunities for organisations from working closer with natural resources, while taking steps to help reduce impacts on the environment.

“It’s also about raising awareness about how we all interact with water, how we can approach this through our relationship with natural resources in the future and to encourage consideration around more options to help our planet. Along with restoring oyster levels in the UK, to help habitats and boost biodiversity, we’re working closely with those who know how to care for and encourage the native oysters to flourish – this year and in the future.”

20 native oyster nurseries are part of the initiative and will be located in sea water near the schools involved, allowing pupils to study them. The health of the oysters will be monitored with the 540 oysters also expected to multiply each year.

Water Plus will also work with the schools involved to help increase water efficiency and awareness around reducing impacts on natural resources.

As part of the Water Plus project, pupils from Lochaline Primary School, in Morvern, have visited the native oysters and have been involved in monitoring their growth.

Each oyster can filter around 200 litres of water in 24 hours – which means the oysters, in total, could filter around 108,000 litres of water a day, helping to clean UK coastal water.

The nursery bridles (ropes attached to the baskets where the oysters are) are made with maize rope, which is recyclable and often attracts seaweed and other marine growth. Plastic free ropes prevent micro plastics entering surrounding waters.

The project follows Water Plus supporting the restoration of peatland in the last year, preventing 400 tonnes of carbon being released**, helping towards the UK’s Net Zero target. A large tree-planting initiative is also continuing this year after Water Plus, which has a base in Glasgow and one in Staffordshire and is the UK’s largest water retailer, started increasing green coverage across England and Scotland in 2020.

How water can help organisations to cut emissions and reduce impacts

There are carbon emissions linked to all water used by organisations that they get through their taps and site pipes – and carbon emissions linked to wastewater that’s taken away to be treated.

Water is generally under Scope 3 emissions though can also impact other Scope emissions. Where water is heated at an organisation’s site, or it’s moved around by pumps, or other means, which use power, then there are carbon emissions linked to how the water is used once an organisation gets it (unless 100% certified renewable energy is used for power).

More on steps organisations can take with their water to deliver efficiency and reduce risks to operations can be found on the future Net Zero site here.

Any increase in water efficiency, including a reduction in leaks and dripping pipes, can be achieved by engaging organisations and their employees more with water. Any reduction in how much water needs to be heated would also reduce energy use.

 

Additional notes

*Blue Carbon is the term for carbon captured by and in the world’s oceans, including coastal and marine ecosystems.

**More details on the restored UK peatland, that will prevent 400 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions being released and is located in Scotland, at: www.water-plus.co.uk/about-us/corporate-social-responsibility-sustainability/ .

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