Rivers, streams and seawater waters throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been plagued by widespread agricultural pollution and sewage, according to a new report.
Despite Only 14% of English rivers meet the criteria for “good” ecological status, 43% of people asked in a new survey believe Britain’s freshwater systems are in good condition.
However, the Troubled Waters report for a coalition of charities, including the RSPB, the National Trust and the Rivers Trust, revealed how even wildlife protected wetlands and rivers are at risk of pollution, while the restoration of water quality is hampered by the lack of effective monitoring and enforcement.
Less than half of Welsh rivers are in good ecological status, and 28 of the 45 monitored areas on the River Wye have failed to achieve targets to control phosphorus levels caused by widespread agricultural pollution. However, planning approval will continue to be granted intensive poultry farms, with an estimated 20 million chicken now enlarged annually in the catchment of the River Wye.
Only 31% of water bodies in Northern Ireland is good or high quality, with 76% of lakes in the Upper Lough Erne area classified as less than good, mainly as a result of the washing of manure from farmland into rivers and streams.
In some areas, sewage also damages wildlife -rich sites, with Leighton Moss, the largest reed in north-west England and an area of special scientific interest, which is also home to 30 properties that rely on septic tanks and are judged to be a threat to springs feeding on swamps .
According to a YouGov poll in the report, 88% of people agree that Britain’s lakes, rivers and streams are a “national treasure” but only 10% identified agricultural pollution as the biggest issue for quality of water.
Jenna Hegarty, deputy director of policy for the RSPB, said: “It is not surprising that many people think of our waterways as a national treasure and rejoice in the magical sight of otters playing in our streams, dragonflies flying like jewels above our lakes and the lively flash of kingfishers in flight.
“But nature is in crisis and the incredible freshlife wildlife people are amazed at as they explore our countryside this summer is a part of the must have. It’s disturbing how it turned out it is very normal for our waterways to become dirty and contaminated, and many people are unaware that something is wrong. “
The report called for an end to the discharge of sewage into rivers and tougher fines for pollution on water companies, but said there should also be “systematic changes” to the system of planning and legally binding targets for biodiversity and freshwater systems.
In addition, enforcement agencies need better resources to monitor sites, according to the report.
Sa England, spending on monitoring protected sites, including freshwater, has fallen from £ 2m in 2010 to £ 700,000 in 2019. Until recently, the report said, the average farm in England could expect a visit of a Officer of the Environment Agency once every 263 years.
It is estimated that the cost of effective implementation in England is £ 10m a year.