Bradford's visionary regeneration plans to create open water features in the city centre will be shaped by the results of a water cleansing project.

The Urban Water Cycle scheme is testing two methods of water purification in a bid to find the best way of treating Bradford Beck, which runs under the city centre.

The water from the beck would feed any future water designs and the reopening of Bradford Canal.

But the feasibility of such a concept will depend on how effectively the water can be cleaned.

This will rest on the success of the pilot schemes and eventually mould the landscape of the city centre.

Kirsty Breaks, drainage technical officer at Bradford Council, said: "There has been a big push to create open water spaces and green spaces under the regeneration plans. But we need to improve the water quality within the urban environment to have these. People will be in contact with this open water so it needs to be clean. The results of the pilot will therefore help to inform the decision-makers about what they can go ahead with and what they cannot."

The first scheme is a hi-tech project which cleanses water in Bradford Beck as it comes into the city centre.

The second, the Wetlands Project, is a natural cleansing method using the local landscape.

Two separate wetlands, covering 0.2 hectares, were created from grassland by Bradford Council between 2004 and 2005 at Pitty Beck and Chellow Dene, both in Allerton, diverting part of the flow of Bradford Beck to various ponds.

The first pond at each location catches the sediment and another three ponds clean the water in a reed bed.

Mrs Breaks said: "There is an interaction between the roots of the reeds and the bacteria in the soil. Any contaminants are trapped in the soil and converted into harmless compounds by the bacteria in the soil."

The water will now be sampled over the next year by Sheffield University and tested in laboratories to examine the effectiveness of the wetlands.

The water will be monitored during dry spells and storm weather to check for different levels of contamination. Once the results are collected, they will be presented to the city's key figures.

Mrs Breaks said: "The best thing about the wetlands is that they are a natural way of cleaning water. They are also in an area of green space, which is very rare these days - it makes it a more attractive option."

The project forms part of the European-funded North Sea Interreg 3B Programme, the work being carried out as part of the Urban Water Cycle project.

Council officials have been working with a representative of the Pennine Water Group, one of a number of members of a national research facility funded as part of the UK Climate Impact Programme and the Building Knowledge for a Change in Climate Programme.

Other partners, all involved in work along the same theme, are based in Holland, Germany and Denmark.

The Wetlands Project has also inspired members of the local community, and steering groups have been formed including representatives from the Youth Service, Bradford Community Environment Programme and Bradford University.

Youngsters from Crossley Hall Primary School, on Thornton Road, Ley Top Primary, in Allerton, and pupils from Thornton Grammar School helped workers from the Council's building control department to create the wetland areas. They have also helped to spruce up the surrounding area by planting native species and meadows.

Mrs Breaks said: "We have kept the community involved from the start and given them a voice in decision-making. It is their area and it's on their doorstep."

She added: "When the project was started we sent questionnaires to local people in the community on their thoughts. The main response was good - people wanted to have something to improve the area but they were worried about children vandalising the scheme.

"Wetlands includes children - if children are working on the project they will be less likely to damage it because they will see it as their own - it becomes an area they have ownership of."

Residents will be able to learn more about the project during an open day today at Chellow Dene.

The site will be officially opened by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor John Godward and the Deputy Lady Mayoress, Jean Godward.

Prizes will be presented to school children whose designs were chosen to be used on the official Council signs at the wetland sites.

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, Bradford Council's executive member for the environment, said: "This project is of paramount importance to Bradford and the research gathered will be used to influence other local authorities across the country and beyond.

"However this has also been a real community project, with local school children and residents helping to monitor the water quality and evaluate the project."

Mrs Breaks said the future of Bradford would rest on the usability of water in both designing the landscape and as a way of easing pressure on the city's sewerage system.

Mrs Breaks said: "Water has a good amenity value. If you live in a city which has no green spaces or open water spaces it can be depressing. If our city looks nicer it will attract more people.

"If you have an area of urban water you will have less water flowing into the piped system and less strain when it is carried through the city."

  • The entrance to the wetlands area of open land is opposite St Saviours Church off Ings Way in Fairweather Green.

  • Both valleys are made of woodland and mixed grass with plants such as dock and white clover.
  • Brown trout are present at Pitty Beck and three-spined stickleback have been sighted at Chellow Dene.
  • Chellow Dene is overlooked on three sides by houses while Pitty Beck is partially overlooked by houses and is more isolated.
  • Different plant species will be placed by the Council at both locations, including hazel, English yew, blackthorn, pussy willow, Queen of the meadow and purple loosestrife.

  • Water has had an important role in the development of Bradford through the textile industry, which spurred the growth of the city during the 19th century.
  • Like many cities, Bradford turned its back on its watercourses as they became polluted during the industrial revolution and more recently, following the decline of the textile industry. Many were buried in culverts while others were forced into reduced channels.
  • Although water quality has improved in recent years, the impact of combined storm overflows upstream still reduces in water quality during wet weather.
  • The Bradford city regeneration scheme called for the reintroduction of surface water to the urban environment, and included wetlands and formal amenity use as well as leisure and navigation facilities.
  • It is anticipated that such features will help to attract developers and visitors to the area and help to create a sustainable, vibrant community.