A pilot project aimed at removing floating pennywort from a section of the River Colne Valley, could go some way to helping water companies reduce the significant costs associated with tackling invasive non-native species, according to the Environment Agency (EA).
Part of a joint venture between the agency and charity Groundwork South, the plan has been designed to unite local groups and organisations to “restore and enhance” the mid to lower reaches of the River Colne Valley, which crosses parts of greater London and Buckinghamshire.
The EA hopes to control the spread of the species through “continued co-operation” from the river community who can report sightings of new growth through a mobile phone app.
Groundwork South works with the Colne Catchment Action Network partnership, whose members include anglers, water companies, local authorities and the Canal and River Trust.
Groundwork South has hired a contractor to remove pennywort on a monthly basis in one section of the valley.
The charity has also launched a £10,000 fund for local partners to manage volunteer work to remove the species.
In 2016, the water industry research body UKWIR said regulations aimed at combating invasive non-native species, such as floating pennywort, were likely to cost the water industry more than £7.5m a year.
The regulations require landowners to prevent, control and eradicate INNS and makes them financially liable for passing species from one party to another.
Samantha Ho, biodiversity officer for the EA, said floating pennywort - which was originally introduced to the UK as an ornamental aquatic plant - could affect the oxygen content of rivers, as well as smothering important habitats and reducing biodiversity. It can also increase flood-risk, she said.
In a statement the EA said: “A new plant population can become established by a single fragment drifting downstream and once present in a waterbody can grow rapidly. This is a prime example of why it is important to dispose of plants correctly, and to follow advice from the national Be Plant Wise campaign.”