New study reveals alarming state of English rivers
A new study has revealed that 83% of 163 rivers in England failed to reach good ecological standards due to high levels of phosphate, which is extremely damaging in freshwater.
The alarming results come from the first annual Water Quality Monitoring Network (WQMN) report, which includes popular fishing rivers like the Upper Ouse, Severn, Warwickshire Avon, Hampshire Avon and the Upper and Bedford Ouse.
The crucial study, instigated by the Angling Trust as part of its Anglers Against Pollution campaign, began in May 2022 when a community of volunteer ‘angler citizen scientists’ was mobilised to monitor water quality.
And the Trust has called on political parties to include a clear plan to tackle river pollution in their General Election manifestos.
Frustration has mounted as testing by the Environment Agency and water regulators has been reduced and information about pollution from the water industry and the agricultural sector has been hard to find.
The most disturbing finding in the report from the first full year of testing (July 2022 to July 2023) reveal that 44% of site averages for phosphate failed to reach the standard for good ecological status.
It also indicated that of the 163 rivers tested where more than five samples were recorded, 83% failed to meet the phosphate standard for good ecological status in at least one sample.
Those catchments with the highest phosphate site averages were the Medway, Swale, Ure, Nidd and Upper Ouse, Severn Middle Worcestershire, Loddon and tributaries, Wey and tributaries, Warwickshire Avon, Ribble, Hampshire Avon, Upper and Bedford Ouse.
The Trust’s Head of Campaigns, Stuart Singleton White (pictured), said much stronger regulations were essential to ensure money is invested where it will make the most positive difference.
“Otherwise, polluters will play accountancy versus ecology to meet environmental targets, boasting about the level of investment but not delivering the environmental improvements needed,” he added.
“The recently published report from the Office of Environmental Protection shows that stopping sewage pollution is not progressing to plan and our report shows this to be the case. A failure by the next government to address this would be a betrayal of anglers across the country.
“With a General Election approaching, we are urging political parties to make clear commitments in their manifestos that they will enforce existing laws far more thoroughly and bring in new, strengthened environmental laws to protect our waterways from pollution and phosphate overload.”
Comedian Paul Whitehouse, star of the hit TV series Gone Fishing, added his support by saying: “The chronic mismanagement of our rivers and waterways by organisations and bodies specifically tasked with protecting them has received a lot of attention recently. The Angling Trust has mobilised its army of volunteers to safeguard and improve the quality of our waterways by gathering evidence to hold polluters to account. Hats off to them.”
The Trust plans to expand the WQMN by recruiting more volunteers and to include still waters and estuaries to provide a comprehensive understanding of pollution dynamics.