Unstead Wetland Reserve: an inspiration!

A few weeks ago, Sarah, a Water Rangers and Zero Guildford volunteer organized a tour of the Unstead Wetland Nature Reserve! We’re establishing some water quality monitoring here and we’re so excited about the initial results.


A quick introduction

This beautiful 25.7-acre area takes in water from Thames Water’s Godalming Sewage Treatment Works. It was originally created in the 1990s but had been neglected until a few years ago when a group of hard-working community members begun work to restore it, establishing a charity and, under Warden Keith Lightfoot’s leadership, have made this place into an inspiration. Thanks to generous support from Thames Water, they’re building a viewing platform amongst other projects that help nature and the water company to filter water naturally. The charity continues to see increasing amounts of birds and butterflies as they clear space for native plants, remove growth that impedes the wetland, and plant native flowers!

(a map of the wetland, courtesy of Unstead Wetland Nature Reserve website)

What about water quality?

Volunteers intuitively believed the wetland was filtering the water from the treatment works, providing even more benefit to the nearby River Wey but they didn’t have any data to prove it.

Last Thursday, Water Rangers’ Executive Director Kat and Warden Keith walked the wetland again to take some baseline water quality samples to establish some long-term sampling locations.

They tested the water coming into the reserve (treated by Godalming Water Treatment), in the East Lagoon (where it’s taken its time to be filtered the wetland and undisturbed for a length of time), and where it exits the the wetland (a mixture of very well-filtered and moderately filtered water).

You can view the full results on our data platform, but here are a few of the highlights for comparison:

LocationPhosphates (ppm)Nitrates (ppm)Conductivity (uS/cm)
From Godalming Treatment Works : Unstead Inlet1.010724
East Lagoon : Unstead Wetland Reserve0.0351.5648
Unstead Exit (outflow) : Unstead Wetland Reserve0.755.0654

From the results, you can see that nutrient levels are lowest in the East Lagoon, and still lower than the intake when it exits the reserve. All the volunteers were thrilled to learn that the results were very promising! Of course, we need to keep testing regularly to draw conclusions. However, even these results already had the warden head thinking about next steps!

Want to get involved?

Volunteers from the Godalming Water Testing Group and Unstead will be testing here as part of their #watertestingweekend activities. Volunteering sessions at Unstead happen every Thursday from 10am. Everyone is welcome!