Monday, September 28, 2009

Water quality of rivers needs improving

Letter to the press:

The Citizen reports that water quality in Gloucestershire's rivers is' better than ever' (24/09/09). Indeed the improvements are to be welcomed, but they are far too small. In the South West only 33% of rivers, lakes and coastal waters achieved ‘good’ or ‘high’ ecological status under the new and more stringent Water Framework Directive (i). This compares with an average figure of 26% for England and Wales.

Looking closer at the report, we see that the Environment Agency found only 5 out of 6114 rivers it surveyed in the UK, are pristine. None of the five are in the South West. 117 rivers are ranked on a par with the dirtiest rivers in eastern Europe, a further 742 are considered to be in "poor condition" and 3,654, (or 60%), are in only "moderate" condition.

Incredibly there are still 100,000 Environment Agency discharge consents for pathogenic waste in England and Wales plus over 25,000 storm overflows. Raw sewage is still getting into our waterways. and we have no microbial standards for watercourses in this country. This needs action. We also urgently need to reduce pollution from farming.

The Government is committed to meet the target of 95% of rivers meeting agreed European “good” or “very good” standards by 2015. It will have its work cut out to achieve this. Without serious investment we are storing up problems for the future and will see a return of the court cases and fines of the early 1980s, when Britain was labelled "the dirty man of Europe".

Philip Booth, Ruscombe Brook Action Group,

(i) See report:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Report on Ruscombe Brook Action Group AGM 2009

Philip Booth reports on AGM - a more detailed report with more photos can be found at his blog here.

The Ruscombe Brook Action Group (RBAG) formed in January 2005 to end the flooding at Puckshole and the repeated incidents of sewage getting into the Ruscombe brook. Since then the group has met monthly and learnt lots about water, sewage, biodiversity and more. We've worked with various agencies and seen some significant improvements: sewage pipes replaced, roots cut from inside pipes and a plan for further work.

Photo: Water For Life exhibition at RBAG AGM

We've also organised three seminars and held other public meetings, met with agencies to see improvements at The Lawns and Hamwell Leaze, initiated projects with University students and school children to look at water quality, produced information leaflets and much more.

At our AGM in Randwick Village Hall, Chair, Zarin Hainsworth (pictured left with her daughter), outlined work this year. It included a walk along the 2 mile brook to identify problems, one day digging out silt from near a culvert and one day removing a vast amount of rubbish including two sofas, a tent, waste bins and of course a shopping trolley. Apart from work to improve the sewage system we are also delighted to have finally got agreement and funding for a grill and clearing out of the culvert at Puckshole. This initial measure will reduce flooding of the lane but there are further improvements planned for the site. We're also producing information on how to reduce our water use.

Another exciting development this year is Stroud Valleys Water Forum that RBAG helped set up with the four other water action groups in the area. We are together seeking a water management strategy in the Stroud area that will give greater protection from floods and drought.

At the AGM after Officers reports and elections, we heard from Adam Broadhead and Julian Jones from Water 21. They talked about how Stroud Valleys’ complex hydrogeology has been disrupted by artificial modification, urbanisation and intensification of agriculture. Infiltration zones such as fields and woodlands have been covered with paved, impermeable surfaces. We also heard about specific problems at Brigend and what solutions might be possible, the work in the Slad Valley and more. The evening concluded with a DVD preview of work in Australia around soils and water. We are now looking forward to another year of improvements along the brook.