More than 40,000 native trees are being planted for farms and landowners to help reduce land run-off and improve natural water quality as part of South West Water’s pioneering catchment management programme, Upstream Thinking.

The trees, which were provided by the Woodland Trust, will be delivered and planted by Upstream Thinking partners Devon Wildlife Trust, and will see a range of native tree species like blackthorn, hazel and oak delivered to farms across Devon.

The native trees will encourage water to soak into the ground and help to stabilise the soil, reducing the risk of run-off from land into watercourses and thereby improving water quality. The trees will also help to capture carbon and increase biodiversity on the land.

Carolyn Cadman, Director of Natural Resources at South West Water, said: 'Without intervention, run-off from land can end up in our rivers and reservoirs, harming important habitats and impacting water quality for customers.

'Bad water quality means that we need to use more intensive and expensive treatment before we can supply it to customers.

'Upstream Thinking is a unique industry-leading approach through which South West Water is working in partnership to tackle the issue of land run-off head on, delivering multiple benefits for the landscape, wildlife, ecology and raw water quality. We are proud to be leading on this important work.'


The latest intake of trees will be delivered to around 60 farms across eight river catchments, taking the number of trees planted across the region by the Upstream Thinking programme to 260,000.

Tim Dart, Upstream Thinking Project Manager at Devon Wildlife Trust, said: 'We are really pleased to be delivery partners on South West Water’s Upstream Thinking programme and for their support in delivering this important project to improve water quality and resilient water resources, along with the environmental benefits this brings for wildlife and people.'

Upstream Thinking is an award-winning catchment management programme delivered in partnership with Westcountry Rivers Trust, the Wildlife Trusts in Devon and Cornwall, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and South West Lakes Trust. The programme involves working with landowners to look at how land is managed to drive improvements in raw water quality in rivers across the region.

Eleanor Lewis, South West Outreach Manager for the Woodland Trust said: 'The benefits of trees are numerous and we are pleased to be able to support the Upstream Thinking project. Partnership working is key and this highlights how organisations can come together to work with landowners and farmers to find solutions to some of the problems we face.'

South West Water is passionate about enhancing and protecting the natural environment. The company has committed to boosting nature recovery through planting 300,000 trees to 2025 and expanding Upstream Thinking to provide benefits to 146,500 hectares of land by 2030.