THE Salmon & Trout Association (S&TA) is deeply concerned that the government’s go-ahead for water companies to include environmental improvements in their workplans is too little, too late – and penalises the innocent. 

The EU Water Framework Directive, setting minimum quality standards that most British rivers would now fail, is a clarion call for action NOW, the S&TA proclaims.

“We welcome the announced multi-million pound investment to update the

Thames‘s antiquated sewerage system,” Paul Knight, S&TA Director, declares.

“We have been vigorously lobbying for this for some time and are delighted that the government now recognises the need. Although Thames spending over the next five years will prevent some spillage, building the big relief pipe to accommodate London‘s sewage and rainwater overflows is only planned to begin in 2010. What is going to happen with the untreated sewage polluting the Thames after every moderate rainfall between now and then?”

The S&TA highlights the dire consequences now facing the country’s rivers and streams as a result of excessive water abstraction, inefficiently treated sewage, diffuse pollution, and urban run off combined with unrealistically cheap water prices

 

The good news for our rivers and streams…
The EU Water Framework Directive requirements, due to come into force in 2015, are such that 90% of British rivers and streams would fail if they were applied now.   However, the S&TA, in conjunction with other environmental organisations, has already gained important commitments from Defra to begin to address this dire state of affairs immediately.

In particular:

To help meet national targets for conserving and enhancing threatened water and wetland species and habitats

Investigate the best means of removing hormones (endocrine disrupting substances) from the treated sewage that routinely enters our waterways and also changes the sex of fish.

To begin working with land managers to prevent pollutants from entering the water system at the source, thus keeping the whole system cleaner, and reducing the costs of water treatment.

To improve the effluent quality from sewage treatment works discharging into the Thames.

 

…and the bad
But none of the above actions are going to be enough on their own to enable Britain‘s rivers to meet the EU targets.  Necessary action must begin with implementing integrated land and water management now, and the costs must be borne by the Government. The S&TA is concerned that government and other agencies are failing to take action with force and conviction.

 

The S&TA saw the original Defra proposal to raise domestic water rates by 31% between 2005 and 2010, as a bare minimum requirement to protect the aquatic environment.  “Now that Ofwat have recommended a cut in this figure to 13%, we despair of putting across the fundamental message that cheap water is no longer an option if we are ever to halt the insidious degradation of our rivers, streams and lakes,” Paul Knight declares.

 

Currently, there are 120 days in the year (33% of the time) where participating in watersports on the tidal Thames is not advised due to risk of illness because of sewage and related debris.

 

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