Luston Integrated Constructed Wetland (ICW)

The River Wye is struggling with high levels of phosphorus entering the watercourse and altering its delicate ecological balance. It is designated as a Special Area of Conservation, an international designation because of its special features and protected species including crayfish, salmon and otter.

Currently both the River Wye and the River Lugg are classified by Natural England as being in unfavourable condition and because the River Lugg SAC is exceeding its targets for phosphates, all new development within the Lugg catchment, is required to demonstrate nutrient neutrality.

With nutrient neutrality requirements in place from 2019, housing development halted in north Herefordshire while awaiting a solution. The Luston wetland funded by Herefordshire Council and the LEP contributes to river betterment as well as providing mitigation in the form of phosphate credits, enabling planning permissions to be granted and over 1,000 new homes in the catchment to be built.

Constructing Luston wetland

Integrated wetlands

The Integrated Wetlands project is the council's innovative natural solution to nutrient management. The wetlands will address point source pollution by taking treated water from Welsh Water treatment works and diverting its flow through the wetland for phosphate removal.

The wetland has been planted with a variety of native species that have the ability to take up large amounts of phosphate from water. The phosphate is used by the plants for growth and can be stored in the roots, thereby reducing the quantity of phosphate in the water before it re-enters the watercourse.

Planting by hand at Luston

Planting by hand at Luston.

The Luston site as it first became operational and water was switched on

The Luston site as it first became operational and water was switched on.

This project is the first of its kind - modelling undertaken on the Luston wetland identified that the site will remove 291.2 kg phosphate per year, of this 58.2 kg per year will be used for river betterment with the remainder used to enable economic growth in the county.

Now that the wetland is operational, weekly testing is underway to monitor the phosphate removed from the water and phosphate credits are being made available to developers to purchase to offset the phosphate load of their new development.

We are pursuing further wetland sites across the county to enable future growth. Two sites at Tarrington and Titley have planning permission, with further sites also under consideration.

A simple diagram cross section of a horizontal flow wetland

A simple diagram cross section of a horizontal flow wetland. This diagram was AI generated.

Luston biodiversity

Wetlands function as their own distinct ecosystem and have many benefits in addition to being able to remove phosphate effectively. They are able to remove a variety of nutrients and pollutants and are also a carbon sink, providing new habitat rich in biodiversity.

The site at Luston once an agricultural field low in ecological value has now been turned into a natural asset enhancing the local landscape and providing a new biodiversity haven. Assessment based on the Biodiversity Net Gain Metric, indicates Luston has an expected 183% increase in biodiversity value.

Already several new species have moved into the site and initial surveys show it is now providing habitat for a variety of wildfowl, bat, and insect species. As the site is being managed as natural habitat, we hope to see skylark, newts, and a large array of invertebrates and mammals making Luston their new home in the near future.

Luston at the start of autumn 2023 as plants continue to thrive in the wetland cells

Luston at the start of autumn 2023 as plants continue to thrive in the wetland cells.

Read more about Luston and the wonderful species that have been planted in the Luston case study.