STOCK NETTING WATER POLLUTION HYDROPOWER
AND FISH PASSAGE DECLINING WILD
What is the issue?
Excessive water abstraction, either from groundwater in aquifer fed catchments or directly from rivers, is one of the most damaging stressors on the aquatic environment. Resulting low flows lead to loss of wetted area and, therefore, fisheries habitat for all life stages of trout and other resident species, and the freshwater phases of anadromous migrating fish such as salmon, sea trout, shad and lampreys, resulting in reduced production within river systems. Low flows also lead to increased sediment deposited on stream beds, smothering spawning gravels and plant life, decreased dilution of pollutants, resulting in increased nutrients, eutrophication and low dissolved oxygen levels, and can raise water temperatures to dangerous levels, causing biological barriers to migration and, in extreme cases, fish kills. Above all, low flows, especially when followed by increased water temperatures, can lead to changes in species of plants, invertebrates and fish species, thereby changing whole ecosystems.
What S&TA has achieved so far
- Supported several river systems in challenging the Environment Agency (EA) over its assessment of available water supplies, following its Catchment Abstraction Management Programme (CAMS) review
- Following intense lobbying over many years, the EA is now undertaking a Review of Sustainable Abstractions (RSA). However, this is only in protected (SAC, SSSI) rivers at present
- With other environmental colleagues, we at last have the EA talking in terms of tackling abstraction within integrated catchment management plans, placing abstraction alongside all other river system stressors when deciding on measures to deliver objectives under the EU Water Framework Directive
- The Government committed within the Natural Environment Water White, published in 2011, to reform the abstraction regime and tackle the legacy of unsustainable abstraction more efficiently
What still needs to be done?
S&TA is continuing to work, both individually and alongside colleagues within the Blueprint for Water coalition, to lobby for:
- continued pressure on Government and Agencies to ensure abstraction - and all other environmental stressors - are included in genuine catchment management plans, with the political commitment to deliver them
- reform of abstraction licensing to reduce pressure on all rivers, lakes and wetland habitat, not just those that are protected under European legislation, and increase flexibility within aquatic ecosystems to adapt to climate change
- reduction in water consumption by at least 20% through more efficient use in homes and businesses and an extensive educational campaign aimed at industry and households
- water metering in stressed areas by 2015
- universal water metering in all homes by 2020, so that everyone views water as a resource and not simply a commodity
- S&TA Scientific Briefing Paper: River and Groundwater Abstraction
- SNIFFER. (2006). Development of Environmental Standards (Water Resources). Stage 2.
- SNIFFER. (2005). Development of Environmental Standards (Water Resources). Stage 1.
- S&TA Hampshire Avon complaint
(Go to the Media Centre for further information, images and video clips)
- Draft Water Bill
Written submission to the Parliamentary Committee from the S&TA