Despite more than 26 years working to protect and restore the Westcountry’s freshwater environments, we are acutely aware there is an on-going need for our charity’s work to continue.
But it is not just in our region. This week, the Troubled Waters report highlighted that the water quality of waterbodies across England, Wales and Northern Ireland is being lessened by agricultural waste, raw sewage, and pollution from abandoned mines.
Commissioned by a partnership of environmental charities including the river movement’s national body The Rivers Trust, the RSPB, and the National Trust, the report states this is happening despite 88% of people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who took part in its online YouGov survey, agreeing freshwater habitats are a “national treasure”.
Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust said: “This report helps to quantify what those of us working closely with rivers have suspected for a while: the public’s appreciation of rivers as natural heritage has grown in recent years, especially as they have become an important refuge and recreational space during Covid; and our shared concern about the pressures rivers are facing is growing even faster.
“This should send a clear signal to government and businesses to start prioritising nature-based solutions to improve the state of our rivers. ”
The report looked at several case study sites, including, in our region, the Somerset Levels, while making recommendations to mitigate damage to them.
Solutions put forward in the report to improve water quality overall in the UK include changes to the planning approval system; a transition to regenerative farming practices; legally binding targets for freshwater and biodiversity; stopping untreated sewage from reaching rivers; better resourcing for monitoring and enforcement; and regular checks of protected sites.
Here at Westcountry Rivers Trust, we work closely with a variety of people and sectors to help our region’s waterways be as healthy as possible. This includes working with the farming community to support water quality best practice; a pesticide amnesty; projects that research and clean up plastic pollution; managing an effective and leading citizen science programme; conducting fisheries research; and working with water companies to address concerns and influence positive actions.
We are pleased to see the survey showing a growing love for rivers as we continue to work towards our vision of people helping our Westcountry rivers flow freely and teem with life, while valuing our most precious of resources, water.
You can read the full Troubled Waters report via rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/troubled-waters-report/