By James Maclean

Environmental solutions which aim to safeguard our planet for future generations have always been at the forefront of projects undertaken by leading wet civil engineering firm Land & Water. 

From cutting carbon to increasing biodiversity, Land & Water incorporates sustainable engineering strategies to maintain and enhance the UK’s waterways whilst protecting landscapes, waterscapes, and wildlife. 

It is no secret that the construction and civil engineering industries are one of the key producers of CO2, that’s why it’s vital we play our part in addressing the issue and tackling climate change. 

With the UK government aiming to become net zero in terms of carbon emissions by 2050, and a number of our key Clients looking to achieve the same by 2030, Land & Water has prioritised its own strategic thinking in order to streamline working practices and introduce a carbon reduction agenda. 

Recently we have been following a four step carbon reduction strategy to not only add value to the areas in which we work but to also identify low energy consumption operations which can bring about positive behavioral and environmental change, within the construction and civil engineering industries.

It’s all about making smart moves to better the environment we live in.

Step One looks at how we deliver our projects – do we actually need to deliver them or can we improve and maintain our waterway and estuarial infrastructure differently. Step Two looks at delivery, perhaps maintenance works can use digital mapping and AI to enable “little and often” low energy consumption operations rather than heavy, footprint major campaigns.

Step Two highly influenced our Calstock project in Cornwall on behalf of the Environment Agency, which aimed to reduce flooding in the local area, as it allowed us to use strategic and sustainable thinking to drive emissions down. We reduced the use of heavy equipment with alternative materials and redesigned the geotechnical embankments to prevent the need for using cement to stabilise soils and cement tanker deliveries through Cornish villages. By doing this, it allowed us to save 75 percent of construction carbon and 72 percent whole carbon whilst reducing the overall carbon footprint by 7,350 tonnes, an achievement we are incredibly proud of. 

What’s more, we also increased biodiversity by creating reedbeds to offset some of the habitat losses caused by global warming and protect future eco-systems. This is part of Step Three of our carbon reduction process.

As we leave a project behind, we always look to build in nature to create a habitat within the infrastructure to encourage Net Biodiversity Gain and carbon sequestration at the point we have infringed. This helps to further safeguard our planet for years to come.

Finally, Step Four identifies the most responsible form of offsetting for any residual carbon impact, as close to the project as possible, keeping our carbon impact cycle local. 

A carbon reduction method Land & Water is currently incorporating, and becoming incredibly passionate about, is the use of HVO fuel as an alternative to diesel. Not only does this support the UK government’s net zero plans as it’s 90+ percent net carbon neutral but it is also a fully biodegradable biofuel which uses hydrogen to promote a cleaner-burn, straight carbon chain. This means it is FAME Free so it doesn’t cause degradation in time and ultimately block fuel filters.

If you’re also wondering whether it can be incorporated into existing plant machinery, it can, cutting any modification costs and allowing it to become an easy fuel switch allowing us to better use the embedded carbon in our existing machinery.

As a leader in the wet civil engineering industry, I feel it is my responsibility to create awareness of HVO and its continued benefits. 

We trialled HVO in our plant at Land & Water’s Habitat Creation Scheme at Rainham Marshes and was incredibly impressed. Rainham was the perfect location due to its existing sustainability commitment which removes, re-uses, and recycles dredged materials and soils, from project sites across the London Basin, to enhance the local ecology.

By repurposing spoil, we can reduce reliance on landfill sites, cutting waste, and ultimately emissions to increase biodiversity.

Since 2015, Land & Water has been working with the Port of London Authority (PLA), RSPB and Natural England to use redundant, non-hazardous materials to create landforms along the East London Corridor. This collaboration will see us operating the 152 hectares of silt lagoons until 2042, resulting in over six million tonnes of wet and dry spoil material being repurposed and 1,000,000m2 of valuable habitat being created. This is real “natural capital” being created at no cost to the taxpayer.

Many of our projects contribute towards the scheme at Rainham, from the lake dredging works at Colchester Hospital to the East and West sections of the Thames Tideway Tunnel project, where we are busy receiving more than 1,650,000 tonnes of material over two years. 

Our works with the Thames Tideway Tunnel project supported Land & Water’s commitment towards investing in UK infrastructure to build sustainable solutions by highlighting how the River Thames can be used as a liquid highway, reducing air pollution and congestion.

Using the River Thames as a transport system is an innovative environmental solution which needs to be harnessed if we are going to continue cutting carbon emissions in the future.

When it comes to creating an impact around environmental change, we cannot achieve our goals by just reengineering heavy plant or incorporating sustainable fuels. We must educate. 

At Land & Water, we ensure our carbon reduction agenda and sustainability ethos is being spread throughout our supply chain, and loyal workforce. Raising awareness whenever we can. Did you know that existing machine telemetry demonstrates that heavy construction equipment in the UK could reduce its own emissions by between 25 percent and 35 percent, by switching off engines to avoid idle time.

It’s SSSSO simple! ……..So Simple…Simply Switch it Off’. 

About Land & Water

Land & Water is an award-winning inland waterway and coastal civil and environmental engineering company based in the UK. Throughout their 40-year history, their name has become synonymous with finding creative and effective solutions to complex challenges in the specialist environment where land and water meet. Often working in complex or sensitive habitats, their work is always completed with sympathy to the local surroundings, people and the environment.


James Maclean is CEO at Land & Water.

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