Ecological status of rivers
The ecological status of our rivers is one of the indicators we are monitoring in our State of Herefordshire Report. It is not only a measure of environmental health, but also essential for economic growth.
The rivers Wye and Lugg in Herefordshire are both internationally recognised “Special Areas of Conservation” (SAC) because of their high levels of biodiversity and presence of rare species. Clean water is essential for this designation, as well as human health and agricultural production and the quality of the aquatic environment contributes to Herefordshire’s tourism through the recreational potential it offers and the general ambience it adds to this beautiful, rural, county. The Environment Agency monitors the rivers and grades their ecological status as high, good, moderate, poor or bad and we took the data for the 44 monitored sites in Herefordshire and calculated the median status for the county as a whole. Unfortunately, the indicator is red, i.e. environmental quality is getting worse.
One of the most serious pollutants affecting ecological status is phosphates, from human sewage (waste water treatment plants) and agricultural run-off. High phosphate levels have serious repercussions for future development in Herefordshire since the Council, as the Local Planning Authority, has a statutory duty not to approve any development that further jeopardises the environmental quality of the SACs. Since human waste is a source of phosphate for some months there was a virtual planning embargo in affected parts of the catchment whilst the Council decided how to tackle the issue.
The result was a Nutrient Management Plan which, if implemented, would reduce the phosphate load within the rivers below the prescribed levels. The plan can be downloaded here:
Farm Herefordshire, a unique collaborative partnership comprising eleven organisations which is co-ordinated by the Foundation, is helping deliver the agricultural part of the Plan through seven key messages to the farming community. You can see some films of its activity here.
Given time we should turn the indicator for ecological health from red to green.
David Lovelace has put some Environment Agency data about phosphate levels in our rivers into a mapped form, which you can access here.
You can view or download the data on Herefordshire's Data Hub