Water Quality Monitoring Tackles River Wye Pollution

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The Environment Agency is making strategic use of citizen science data to give its water quality monitoring activity a boost and help it decide where and how to tackle pollution on the River Wye, which stretches some 155 miles from its source in mid-Wales to the Severn estuary in Bristol.


Natural England and Natural Resources Wales are working alongside the agency to address concerns about phosphate levels in the catchment, which is a hugely important location for biodiversity, with a range of rare river wildlife to be found there.


Diffuse agricultural production is responsible for more than 60 per cent of the catchment load, with nutrients and livestock manure washing into the waterway during periods of heavy rain.


Recommendations from the Environment Agency include taking a catchment-based approach to target five areas upstream that have high phosphate levels relative to the wider catchment. It’s also possible that high temperatures could be mitigated by increasing shade through tree planting and managing riparian trees more effectively.


Monitoring operations continue to be scaled up for the river to inform action in the future, with £100,000 in funding secured for both the Wye and Lugg catchments. This will be used to supply monitoring equipment (including ten sondes and six auto-samplers) to provide real-time high-res data.


Farmers are also being provided guidance and advice by Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming team, with the aim being to reduce air and water pollution. And the Environment Agency has increased farm visits in the area, with a focus on high-risk locations and those businesses that have previously been non-compliant.


Grace Wight, area environment manager for the Environment Agency, said: “The inclusion of citizen science data in our latest monitoring report is a fantastic step in combining more data sources and is already helping identify where measures can be targeted to reduce the inputs of pollution to the river.


“The scale and complexity of the challenges in the catchment means solutions will take time and must be founded on a strong evidence base.”


A new information page was opened in April this year pertaining to the agency’s analysis, activities and plans to drive water quality improvements in the Wye and Lugg catchments, reducing excess nutrients and improving local environments.


People are being encouraged to report pollution incidents, if they observe fish in distress or if they come across an algal bloom.


Data will be compiled four times a year to further an understanding of what the main variables are that contribute to algal blooms, as well as other ecological and water quality issues. From there, recommendations can be made for regulatory, partnership and industry sector actions to help prevent recurrence of these issues in the future.


The latest report found that nitrogen concentrations have been increasing in the catchment since 2010, with phosphate levels increasing in tributaries of the main Wye.


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