A report compiled by the Environment Agency has revealed that despite improvements in quality over the past 20 years, three quarters of the rivers in the UK are not up to new EU water quality standards. The report assesses the biological and chemical quality of the rivers and has surveyed 6000 rivers across England and Wales, identifying only five as ‘pristine’.
Officials are pleased with the progress made over the past 20 years, with continued improvements having a positive impact on wildlife living in and around the UK’s waterways. Some species were believed to be in terminal decline but these findings have proven that with more work and commitments to reduce pollution and improve water quality across the rivers of Great Britain, more wildlife can be attracted to the waterside and current numbers and species’ futures secured.
Dr Paul Leinster, Chief Executive at the Environment Agency advised,
“Our rivers are at their cleanest for over a century, which is why we are seeing the return of otters, eels and salmon to the Thames, Mersey and Tyne. We need to go even further to meet the new EU measures for water quality. That is why we have announced plans to clean up 9,000 miles of river over the next five years.”
Environmental organisations want to see more action taken than the current commitment made by the Environment Agency however, expressing concern that this level of clean-up would only amount to a further 5% of the offending waterways being upgraded to ‘good’ status.
Tom Le Quesne, freshwater policy advisor at environmental charity WWF said,
“Unless we take action now to stop the decline in the health of our rivers, then we are storing up a raft of problems for the future. We are heavily reliant on this precious resource, and our legislation and actions must deliver a positive improvement to its state.”
The major obstacles that need to be overcome to ensure better water quality are mainly down to pollution from a number of sources. It is necessary to combat the pollution caused by run-off from industrial and residential areas, chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers used in agriculture and over-abstraction to prevent future declines in wildlife populations and biodiversity in and around UK rivers.