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Southport school ready to bloom this spring with new water efficient garden

Posted: 06/06/23

United Utilities Press Release: 26.5.2023

A school in Birkdale has become the latest to benefit from United Utilities’ £1.3 million Sustainable Drainage for Schools (SuDS) programme, which helps to reduce the risk of flooding by diverting rainfall away from the sewer system.

Farnborough Road Infant & Junior School now has several rain garden areas and planters, as well as a water wall, all of which will be used by the pupils to grow a variety of plants and help them learn about the environment and water cycle. Two water butts have also been provided, so in dry periods there is a store of rainwater to keep everything growing.

The award-winning SuDS for Schools programme has been funded by United Utilities as part of its £230 million Better Rivers; Better North West action plan, which aims to improve the health of the region’s waterways. The SuDS initiative is also supported by the Department for Education, and was delivered in partnership with the scheme designer Atkins Ltd and contractor Horticon Ltd.

Johnny Phillips, Surface Water Strategy Manager at United Utilities, explained: “By creating ponds and rain garden areas, or collecting rain in water butts and rainwater planters, SuDS bring added benefits by creating habitats for plants and wildlife in the same way as natural wetlands.

“Rainwater is a resource which all too often just runs down the drain where it enters the sewer system for treatment that it doesn’t need. SuDS help make the most of the rain, which we generally have a lot of in the North West, by creatively managing it on the surface where it can be used to nourish natural habitats which also benefit wildlife.

“These measures also filter the surface water naturally so if it does enter a water course it is less polluted, and if it eventually enters the sewer network it will be after some time so there isn’t the sudden surge which can overload the system.”

At Farnborough Road Infant & Junior School, the sustainable drainage levels have been increased by 10% – equivalent to 58 bathtubs full of water – through the introduction of five rain garden areas that have water-friendly plants, 12 planters, and two water butts. Benches, a growing garden and a water wall have also been installed.

Adrian Antell, Headteacher at Farnborough Road Infant & Junior School, said: “The work carried out by United Utilities has made a huge difference to our school.

“Not only has it helped to deal with problem flooding areas on our site, but it has also improved facilities for our pupils.

“We are very grateful for the help and support we have received.”

Josh Rutherford, Lead Design Engineer at Atkins said: “It’s been a pleasure working on the design of these schemes. There has been a fantastic opportunity to champion the better use of rain – an ever more important resource.

“We have drawn inspiration for many of the designs from the natural environment while also making features colourful and engaging. SuDS are a fantastic way to incorporate a multitude of benefits into school spaces through increased biodiversity, water quality and carbon sequestration whilst reducing key issues like flood risk and strain on the sewer network.

“There has been a real opportunity to showcase the runoff, rather than hide it below ground in pipes, and we have managed to reach out to so many pupils with these schemes. We’ve shone a new light on how sites like this could be drained with engaging and fun uses of SuDS on the site.”

The United Utilities SuDS for schools project was highly commended in the 2022 susdrain SuDS Awards.