Case Study: Thames Water - Biodiversity, Assets and Climate change

Thames Water owns nearly 7000 different sites which help us deliver essential water and wastewater services to our customers. We wanted to understand the possible consequences of climate change for biodiversity and the implications for our business, customers and the environment in which we operate. In 2015, we commissioned a study to assess the potential impacts of climate change upon sites of biodiversity interest owned and/or managed by Thames Water.

The study’s findings are being used to help inform our long-term planning and prioritisation, including pro-active engagement with regulators, and will act as a useful point of reference for site-based activities undertaken now and in the future.

A total of 257 sites, home to various assets that we own and manage, were categorised based upon their dominant habitat and associated climate sensitivity, alongside other site-specific data and information. The study identified that:

  • Over three quarters of sites contained a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) habitat, identified as being the most threatened and requiring conservation;
  • Five percent of sites were located within a designated area (e.g. SSSI, SPA and/or SAC); and
  • Around a third of sites classified with a High sensitivity contained both a National and Local
  • Biodiversity Action Plan species and were located within a designated area (e.g. Ramsar, SPA and/or SSSI).

The study found that the impacts of climate change could challenge our ability to maintain existing habitats at some of our sites. However, the results of our assessment show that only 7% of sites are highly sensitive to climate change. This finding allows us to prioritise adaptation action at these sites, focusing on adaptive management and supporting large scale ecological networks.

We will be sharing the findings of our research with Natural England to:

  • Better understand how existing strategies, projects and/or initiatives consider the threats (and opportunities) posed by climate change;
  • Explore how we might monitor and evaluate sites to help prioritise the most sensitive sites now and in the future; and
  • Explore how we could better understand habitat connectivity within the wider landscape
  • (including sites not owned by Thames Water).