Bringing clean water back to the landscape

Wetland Opportunity Areas cover around 25% of England and Wales. This is where we can make landscapes water friendly and restore freshwater biodiversity to drained and polluted towns and countryside.

Building out and connecting

Wetland Opportunity Areas are the gaps between Important Freshwater Areas, where we can build out and connect. We will create and regenerate high quality freshwater habitats to help declining species spread back into landscapes where they have been lost.

We’ve identified Wetland Opportunity Areas using nine national datasets. They are predominantly areas of lower intensity land use, or where there is potential for habitat creation or land deintensification to improve water quality. They include woodland and forest, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and habitats of principal importance under the NERC Act 2006, priority river habitat headwater catchments, alluvial river valleys and National Parks.

Two ponds in a field

- New clean water ponds created in the Water Friendly Farming project.

How we'll do it

Creating and restoring Wetland Opportunity Areas will help to link together Important Freshwater Areas, supporting the whole Freshwater Network. To do this, we’ll build out from existing hotspots. For example, we’ll create and restore large networks of clean water ponds, small lakes and wetland habitats, including fens, and rewild whole stream catchments.

This will allow rich, diverse and near natural freshwater communities to spread back into our countryside and towns. And it can happen anywhere – from protected sites and nature recovery networks, damaged SSSIs and drained moorland bogs, through to new woodlands, unfertilised grasslands and retired farmland. 

Freshwater Habitats Trust has a strong track record in restoring wetlands. Through projects like Water Friendly Farming and the Newt Conservation Partnership we’ve shown how effective this approach is in halting biodiversity loss and bringing back rare species.

Pond surrounded by plants with blue sky.

- Pond created by the Newt Conservation Partnership at Bicester Garrison on the Buckinghamshire-Oxfordshire border.

Working together for freshwater wildlife

We can’t build the Freshwater Network alone. That’s why we’re working with many partners across England and Wales, including landowners, other conservation NGOs and funders, to identify Wetland Opportunity Areas and create a better future for freshwater wildlife.

Get in touch to find out how you can work with us to build a wetter, wilder, cleaner, connected Freshwater Network.

Contact us

- Freshwater Habitats Trust and Thames Water staff at Farmoor Reservoir near Oxford, where we've created wetland mosaic habitat.

Building the Freshwater Network

Find out more about how we’re building the Freshwater Network in Wetland Opportunity Areas.

Aerial view of valley with a river
Waddesdon wetland creation

Freshwater plants and animals are benefiting from a two-hectare wetland creation project in this Wetland Opportunity Area in Buckinghamshire.

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Aerial view of digger next to large area of bare ground to create a pond.
Newt Conservation Partnership

Through the Newt Conservation Partnership, we’re creating high quality habitats for freshwater wildlife in Wetland Opportunity Areas.

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Pond with tree reflected on the water, blue sky behind.
Water Friendly Farming

We’re testing the effectiveness of landscape-wide agri-environment measures and reducing the impact of rural land use in this Wetland Opportunity Area in Leicestershire.

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