£1 million boost for River Avon protection 

A new phase in the commitment to prevent untreated wastewater from reaching the River Avon is being planned in 2024 – bringing with it a welcome water quality boost between Bath and Bristol. 

Nearly £1 million will be spent to dramatically reduce the automatic operation of a storm overflow along the river to the east of Saltford, while also helping to protect wildlife and the environment close to its banks.

As well as building new storage below-ground on a field next to Saltford Rowing Centre off the A4 to hold excess water from combined sewers during heavy storms, the scheme will also include tree and scrub planting in the Saltford area and the installation of two bird boxes.

Wessex Water will also team up with Bath Spa University to relocate a population of reptiles, including slow worms and grass snakes from the site, creating three new turf-covered log piles as places of hibernation for them at the nearby campus.

The company is investing £3 million a month to tackle overflows in the region that have previously discharged most frequently before 2025. Subject to the green light from regulators, Wessex Water has also unveiled proposals to invest a record £400 million towards reducing overflow operation between 2025 and 2030.

The Saltford project was outlined as part of an application submitted to Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) Council planners, seeking permission for a new access to the field where the subterranean tank will be housed just off the main Bath Road.

The new, enhanced, shared entrance would be used by vehicles arriving to maintain the new storage tank, as well as the rowing club, who already use the area as an additional car park during regattas and other race events, with the existing entrance closed off.

Should the application be successful, the five-month project is expected to get under way in May of next year.

Project manager Andre Laranjeira said: “The new tank will be able to host 50,000 litres of water flows from combined sewers, which carry both foul water from home and businesses and rain run-off, during heavy storms.

“This water can later be returned to the sewer and pumped onwards to nearby Saltford Water Recycling Centre for treatment and safe return to the environment.

“As well as preventing the sewer system from becoming overwhelmed and potentially causing local flooding, the extra storage will also aim to significantly reduce the automatic operation of a nearby overflow into the River Avon’’

With areas of grassland, bramble and a single sycamore tree being disrupted by the proposed new access, Wessex Water will install the bird boxes at the site, as well as replanting tree and scrub within its nearby water recycling centre off Mead Lane which will provide a biodiversity net gain of nearly 20 per cent.

Meanwhile Wessex Water ecologist Freya McCarthy, who will supervise the Bath Spa University students’ collaboration in relocating reptiles, added:

“It will involve the creation of three hibernation features (hibernaculas) in the form of log piles covered in turf.

“School of Science students will be offered the unique opportunity to assist in the relocation and hibernacula creation, learning key facts about our dwindling reptile species including their ecology, identification, handling techniques and creating suitable habitat to sustain and help the population grow.

“This collaboration will provide the students with the opportunity to experience practical conservation practices and help them to understand the key principles around how we protect and enhance our local wildlife.’’

The Saltford storage tank is the latest in a string of similar projects stretching from Wiltshire to the east of Bristol to boost the protection of the river from untreated water.

A £1.3 million storage tank scheme was recently completed in Lambridge in the east of Bath, with a £650,000 project getting under way in Fox Hill in the south of the city this coming April.

Elsewhere, £2 million is being invested to cut overflow operation further upstream in Bradford on Avon, which is scheduled to be completed in the spring. More than £800,000 is being spent to build a below-ground tank holding 50,000 litres of water in Hanham.

Wessex Water is also ploughing investment into water treatment around Saltford with a two-year £34 million scheme to expand the village’s water recycling centre, which treats sewage and wastewater from Bath and the surrounding area, starting in the new year.

More than £16.5 million is being spent at nearby Keynsham Water Recycling Centre to similarly increase the capacity to treat wastewater and remove chemicals that can be harmful to the environment.



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