A report on the BBC website this morning grossly over-simplifies the challenges we face in improving our rivers. Our rivers are certainly not pristine, but to suggest that they have got much worse is way off the mark.
The Environment Agency are right to be “aggrieved”; the situation may not be as we would like it to be, but the WWF are way out on a limb here.
Commenting on data made available as part of an ongoing consultation on improving our rivers under the auspices of The Water Framework Directive, the WWF, who really ought to know better, stated
“The figures released today are shocking and show us that things are worse than we thought. This is unacceptable and threatens wildlife and livelihoods.
“It’s clear that we are failing our rivers and the wildlife they impact. We need to see government action to restore these rivers, for example by reducing abstraction and tackling pollution.”
The apparent deterioration is linked to significant changes in the classification criteria associated with the Water Framework Directive. Whereas previously rivers were classified using essentially ‘chemical’ criteria and showed a steady improvement over the last 3 or 4 decades, the new classification system takes account of the biota in the river as well as the physical (hydromorphological) condition of the river. This is clearly sensible, yet HAS led to this apparent deterioration in quality.
Having said that, the classification criteria themselves have some oddities – for example the presence of a natural waterfall, or the absence of fish species that would never have inhabited the watercourse in pristine times, can lead to a lower classification! Do not be sucked in by this biased allegation by the WWF, who should know better.
The Aire Rivers Trust and the Aire and Calder Catchment Partnership will be commenting on the Humber River Basin Management Plan (which is our regional version of the data/plan which sparked the WWF comment) in the very near future.