Anne Voss-Bark Memorial Award 2019

In its fifth year, the Anne Voss-Bark Memorial Award 2019 is now open to students.

See below for details on this exciting award, and please share with any suitable students you may know.

What is the Anne Voss-Bark Memorial Award?

Set up by Salmon & Trout Conservation in collaboration with the Arundel Arms and Fario Club, the Anne Voss-Bark Memorial Award 2019 offers students:

  • One week work experience with the West Country Rivers Trust; learning catchment management and water science from the Trusts eminent scientists
  • Two day fly fishing course
  • Complimentary stay at the Arundell Arms hotel during the work experience
  • £250

The work experience for the winning student will be organised for this autumn.

Who is the Anne Voss-Bark Award open to?

The award is open to young fisheries or aquatic students and offers an unbeatable opportunity to study the practical elements of river restoration and management.

What does a previous winner say?

William Davison, winner of the 2018 award, and who is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Exeter researching ‘using physiology to improve the sustainability of fish production in aquaculture’, said:

“Winning the Anne Voss Bark award was such a great and rewarding experience. Having grown up around the UK’s waterways I’ve always loved them but the opportunity to work with the West Country Rivers Trust for a week really gave me a deeper understanding of what a healthy river actually means and the work involved in protecting them.

This award has also taught me a whole range of hugely valuable skills relating to the importance of outreach, stakeholder engagement and using a more holistic approach to conservation. Going forward I’m going to be able to carry these skills with me in my future PhD work related to promotion of sustainable aquaculture practices.”

Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science & Environmental Policy at S&TC, says,

“William is a perfect example of why this Award is such amazing opportunity for young fisheries and aquatic scientists to gain unbeatable insight into the world of water conservation, and putting theory into action”.

Who was Ann Voss-Bark?

Anne Voss-Bark was a dedicated conservationist and prominent hotelier. Her love of fly fishing made her aware of changes in the countryside detrimental to our rivers and fish. She worked tirelessly to see this demise reversed.

Anne was a strong supporter of the S&TC (then S&TA), the only UK fisheries campaigning charity. She was a Council Member, Vice Chairman and finally Vice President of the charity.

Anne, with others, also founded the West Country Rivers Trust, embracing the concept of total river management.

Anne will also always be well-remembered as the perfect hostess at the Arundell Arms in Lifton, Devon, which was rather run down on acquisition but developed by her over nearly 50 years into today’s eminent fishing and country sports hotel.

How can students apply for the Anne Voss-Bark Award 2019?

Wild fish and their habitats were of great importance to Anne, and we look for the same level of  passion in our applicants.

To apply, in no more than 500 words explain what this work experience opportunity means to you, why you should get this opportunity, and how it would benefit you.

Applicants will need to be available to undertake the placement between the 4th-11thOctober 2019.

The Closing date for applications is 31st July 2019.

To submit an entry or for further information on the Award, please contact Dr Janina Gray, Head of Science at S&TC by email on: janina@salmon-trout.org

Prix Charles Ritz Award 2019 celebrates river conservation in England and Wales

The International Fario Club, with assistance from Salmon & Trout Conservation, have this year launched the Prix Charles Ritz award for England and Wales, to honour projects here helping to preserve our rivers for future generations.

Recognising environmental initiatives on the rivers we cherish

This year the Prix Charles Ritz is launching an award in England and Wales for
individuals/communities who make a difference to the rivers they cherish. A monetary
donation will be awarded to individuals or communities who, through their project(s) in
England or Wales, exhibit the utmost devotion and commitment to the environment.

Specifically, the award is granted to initiatives carried out for the preservation of our
freshwater environment. The Prix Charles Ritz celebrate and rewards those who take care of
our rivers and ecosystems, and champions work to develop and improve rivers.

Rivers are influenced by human activity, both upstream and downstream. However what goes on beneath the surface is mostly hidden from sight and unknown, with water often appearing much healthier than it really is. The issues impacting rivers are numerous, and fish sadly do not receive the same public conservation attention as more ‘cuddly’ mammals; yet the plight of our freshwater habitats has never been more deserving of attention, and their ecosystem and wildlife never in greater need of our protection.

The aim of the award is therefore to cherish the rivers to which we all belong, which was an important legacy of the late and great Charles Ritz, after whom the award is named.

In memory of international river advocate, Charles Ritz

Few people have contributed as much to the evolution of fly fishing and environmental awareness as Charles César Ritz, born in 1891. French born, Charles emigrated to the United States in 1916, where he mastered the art of fly-fishing and became one of the foremost specialists on the subject, eventually inventing the famous parabolic fly-rod.

Author of the internationally treasured ‘Pris sur le Vif’ (‘A Fly Fishers Life’), Charles César Ritz was a pioneer in ecology, a defender of river quality, and a passionate, well travelled, fly fisher; his skills famously endorsed by Ernest Hemingway. His favourite rivers included the Test, Avon, and Itchen in Southern England, where he helped to popularise catch and release.

In 1958, Charles Ritz created the International Fario Club to keep an eye on river quality & ecosystem health. The club brought together five continents with a shared passion for fly fishing and conservation.

Passing away in 1976, at the age of eighty-five, Charles left a genuine legacy in both conservation and fly fishing. Today, his beloved Fario Club continue to promote river health and further his conservation efforts through the aptly named Charles Ritz award. By highlighting and rewarding the improvement and restoration of aquatic environments, the incredible work of this ecological pioneer lives on, and our freshwater ecosystems remain an urgent environmental priority amid increasing pressures.

Applications

The award is aimed at restoration projects, large or small, and/or community projects with the core objective of improving the river environment and the species which depend upon them. This may be achieved through direct action or education, or a mixture of both.

Judges will be looking for a solid rationale and evidence of river improvements; as such applicants will need to submit photographic evidence of their works and a detailed explanation of both the objectives and the results. A range of resources could be used to highlight the impact of the work, for example media coverage, monitoring results, before and after pictures and any relevant documents which demonstrate the scope and success of the work.

How to apply

All applications with projects undertaken in England and Wales are accepted. Applicants can download an application form here. The application form must be returned by 31st August 2019  to prixcharlesritz@gmail.com

The judging panel will compile a short list of 3 applicants and visit these projects over the summer. The winner will be notified in late November, and an awards ceremony held in the beginning of 2020.

For more info please visit: http://www.prixcharlesritz.org/?lang=en

Quick Links

Terms and Conditions

Prix Charles Ritz will use the material from any entry or prize winner in its promotional literature, or on its website, or in other publicity as may be appropriate, unless you advise at the time of entry that you do not wish to take part. Copyright in any and all material submitted by the applicant(s) will remain with the applicant(s), although by submitting an entry, the applicant agrees to the organisation using material as described in these terms.

Prize winners agree to attend the Awards Ceremony and presentation.

By entering the Conservation Awards you are providing your information to Prix Charles Ritz and no other party. The information you provide will be used in conjunction with the Prix Charles Ritz privacy policy, which should be read in addition to these terms and conditions. 

Running for wild fish: S&TC supporter takes on ultra marathon

Run Phil, Run

Avid fly fisherman, conservationist and S&TC supporter Phil Chessum will be running an ultra-marathon to raise funds for our hugely important work.

Phil has committed to running the 'Race to the Kings' on the 22nd and 23rd June - a double marathon along the breathtaking South Downs Way which culminates in a magnificent finish on the steps of Winchester Cathedral. You can find out more about the event here.

running for wild fish

We are incredibly proud and grateful that Phil has chosen our work to benefit from his "marathon" efforts! We would like to highlight Phil's sponsorship page and ask that all our members spread the word, and consider a donation to the fund.

You can support Phil and S&TC by making a donation on his Virgin Money page:

A special thank you goes to Phil. An ultra marathon is no mean feat, and we wish you all the best with your training and on race day!

Phil's sponsorship money will go directly towards conserving wild salmon and sea trout via our action on water quality and salmon farming.

If you are undertaking a special challenge or event, or would like more information on fundraising for us, please contact our Fundraising Manager, Guy Edwards on Guy@salmon-trout.org.

We gratefully welcome all support, whatever the size and scope- from ultra marathons to coffee mornings, from membership to one off donations, and much more.

The S&TC official Virgin Money page can be found here, should you wish to initiate your own event or fundraising idea.

S&TC ask Sir David Attenborough to talk Salmon for IYS

For International Year of the Salmon, we asked Sir David Attenborough for his views on the need to protect the species.

We say that to save wild salmon, Governments across the Northern Hemisphere need to act now.

The following video gives a very clear message about this, if we are not going to lose the ‘King of Fish’ for ever!

We will continue our current work on reforming unsustainable salmon farming in Scotland and improving water quality, both vital issues affecting the health of wild salmon populations.

However, the greater support we receive, the more influential we can be. Please support us as we continue our hard work.

You can also support us by sharing and engaging with this content far and wide on our various social channels:

Bakkavor ends use of cleaning products containing chlorine

Bakkavor has stopped using chlorine-based cleaning products at its Alresford Salads salad washing and packaging factory near Alresford.

This means that the chemicals used every night to clean the factory’s equipment will not be able to react to form chloramines which are highly toxic to water life even in extremely low concentrations. The EA and others stopped Bakkavor using chlorine in the daytime salad washing water some years ago.

This is one small victory in our campaign to stop Bakkavor’s salad washing factory at Alresford polluting the headwaters of the River Itchen SAC and SSSI - one of our finest and most highly protected chalkstreams.

However, two huge issues remain:

  • The overnight cleaning products are still being discharged straight into the upper reaches of the Itchen rather than to the sewage system;
  • Pesticides washed off the salad crops are also entering the river via an adjoining watercress bed with no monitoring for these potential lethal pesticides taking place.

The solution to the overnight wash is clear: under the precautionary principle, it must be tankered away or connected to the sewer (as Vitacress does at its nearby plant on the Bourne Rivulet). We find it incredible that industrial effluent should be discharged to any river. Bakkavor will howl about the cost but why should any business, let alone a multi-million pound one, be allowed to dump potentially toxic chemicals in the headwaters of a SAC river.

The pesticides could be an even bigger threat to the Itchen. We notified the EA formally last summer about our discovery of a potential pesticide impact below the discharge point from Alresford Salads and the discharge point from the watercress bed operated by The Watercress Company (TWC). The water used to wash the salads is pumped to this adjoining watercress bed, flows through the cress beds and then discharges into the river.  TWC’s discharge permit has no pesticide monitoring conditions. Thus, it is possible this potentially lethal pesticide brew has been entering the Itchen without any monitoring.

After our intervention, the EA has been carrying out intensive pesticide monitoring of these discharges and is due to report soon. We await the results with interest. Whatever the outcome, it seems clear that pesticides washed off the salads should be monitored and, if present in harmful quantities, removed whatever the cost.

375,000+ citizens tell the European Commission “Hands off our water law!”

375,386 people have called on the European Commission to defend Europe’s strong water law, making the EU’s public consultation on the legislation one of the largest ever in the history of the European Union.

This law is critical to ensure that Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands are protected and brought back to good health. As our Head of Science and Environmental Policy, Dr Janina Gray, explains:

"The Water Framework Directive gives a basic protection for our rivers and waterlife, and has resulted over the years in millions of pounds of investment, mainly from water companies.  Any weakening of the WFD standards would have catastrophic implications for our waterways and wild fish.

Over 375,000 people have spoken, sending a clear message that the WFD’ standards must remain as they are. This is of paramount importance in driving Government commitment to the protection of our rivers, streams and wild fish following Brexit."

Find out more: Protect Water

The NGO-led #ProtectWater campaign inspired citizens across Europe and beyond to take a stand for Europe’s rivers, lakes and wetlands, and the strong law which protects them, the EU Water Framework Directive, during the European Commission’s ongoing fitness-check.

“375,386 citizens have spoken up for Europe’s precious rivers, lakes and wetlands, and against their ongoing destruction. They have told their governments loud and clear not to undermine the EU water law - decision-makers must now listen up and take these voices seriously”

said Ester Asin, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office,

“With 60% of Europe’s waters in a critical state, the need for action from Member States is urgent. They were meant to put a stop to this destruction when they signed up to the Water Framework Directive in 2000, but, instead, have spent the best part of two decades brazenly side-stepping their commitments and not implementing it. We urge them to own up to their inaction today and, instead of pushing for this law to be changed, take citizens' views on board.”

The #ProtectWater campaign was led by WWF, the European Environmental Bureau, the European Anglers Alliance, the European Rivers Network and Wetlands International - who together form the Living Rivers Europe Coalition.

It facilitated citizens’ participation in the European Commission’s public consultation on the Water Framework Directive (the only opportunity for the general public to have its say during the EU fitness-check) to express their clear opposition to changing the legislation. It was launched in October 2018 and went on to be supported by more than 130 civil society organisations, including national partners and offices of Greenpeace, BirdLife and Friends of the Earth, as well as unions.

The EU’s official analysis of the public consultation, which closed on 11 March, is likely to be published in the autumn of 2019, with the final decision on the future of the legislation expected by the first half of 2020.

As Living Rivers Europe, we will be there every step of the way to ensure that the Water Framework Directive remains intact, and will continue to push for this visionary legislation to be fully implemented by Member States and enforced by the European Commission so that it that the vast majority of Europe’s waters are returned to good health by 2027 (at the absolute latest).

S&TCS briefing as Scottish Government debate the future of salmon farming

TODAY: Scottish parliament to debate the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) committee report on salmon farming

Legislative impact is expected to follow on from today's debate, Wednesday 6th February 2019, for which S&TCS have contributed the following briefing:

S&TCS briefing for MSPs for salmon farming debate Feb 2019

STCS Briefing Addendum - SG's response to REC Report Feb 2019

S&TCS salmon farming debate briefing

S&TCS concerns concentrate on the proven negative effects of salmon and rainbow trout farming at sea on wild salmonids - both Atlantic salmon and sea trout. It has been clear for many years that Scotland’s performance, particularly on sea lice, falls very far short of the internationally agreed NASCO goals.

As a bare minimum S&TCS wishes to see the following five changes in Scotland, all of which were supported by both REC and ECCLR Committees:

  1. The development and introduction of full closed containment farming.
  2. The clear identification of a Scottish public authority charged with the statutory function to protect wild fish from the negative interactions of fish farming.
  3. No expansion of the industry while wild fish interactions remain uncontrolled.
  4. Relocation of existing sensitive sites.
  5. Full transparency and publication of sea lice, escapes, mortalities and disease information.

The Scottish Government response is in danger of allowing the “status quo”, in terms of the regulation and legislation of salmon farms (and transparency in the way that the industry operates), to persist for the foreseeable future.

This would be in stark contrast to what the ECCLR and REC Committees have both advocated after exhaustive examination and consideration. Both Committees identified major shortcomings in the way that the industry is permitted to operate. Action to remedy matters, rather than further prolonged discussion, must now be the priority.

Read the S&TCS briefing in full:

S&TCS briefing for MSPs for salmon farming debate Feb 2019

STCS Briefing Addendum - SG's response to REC Report Feb 2019

Background: 2018 Rec Committee report

The REC committee report was published in November 2018, following the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (ECCLR) committee report.

Read more: S&TCS warmly welcomes the Rural Economy and Connectivity (REC) Committee’s report on salmon farming

Read more: S&TCS applauds Environment Committee report into environmental impacts of salmon farming

Both 2018 Parliamentary inquires into salmon farming, as conducted by the ECCLR and REC Committees, were triggered by S&TCS’ formal Petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee in 2016.

The 148-page REC report found that urgent action was needed to improve the regulation of the Scottish salmon farming industry and to address fish health and environmental challenges. Commenting on the REC report in November, Andrew Graham-Stewart, Director of S&TCS, said:

We applaud the REC Committee’s report, which cuts through many years of Scottish Government and industry spin and prevarication.

The onus is now on Scottish Government to act without delay to implement the Report’s recommendations, giving wild fish much needed protection from sea lice and diseases emanating from salmon farms”.

S&TCS look to the Scottish Government to take action today.

From source to sea: S&TC unite with Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to highlight plastic’s destructive journey

Present at every stage of their journey, wild fish are facing yet another threat: plastic pollution.

We've teamed up with Marine Conservation Society to highlight the issue, as we start to build a campaign which aims to educate on, and ultimately tackle, the enormous plastic problem our wild fish are facing.

Plastic Pathways

The continuous increase in synthetic plastic production and poor management in plastic waste has led to a tremendous increase in its presence in our water environments. Plastic does not decompose, it simply gets smaller and smaller. Consequently, plastic particles less than 5 mm in size - commonly defined as microplastics - are produced and persist in both seawater and freshwater systems.

Around 80% of marine microplastics come from freshwater run-off, meaning there is a whole period where microplastics persist in rivers before they are flushed into the ocean.

Where do microplastics go?

There are few watery places untouched by plastics, microplastics have been found even in the deepest parts of our oceans. Similar to ocean currents, rivers have their own distinct flow ‘fingerprint’, whereby no two rivers will transport material exactly the same way. A lot of this uniqueness comes from human interference - wherever we abstract water or build structures, we change a rivers flow regime.

This regime has a big influence on the journey of microplastics and determines what quantities remain in rivers and what quantities are delivered to oceans. In relatively fast flowing rivers with no obstacles, microplastics can be transported directly and rapidly downstream, straight into marine environments. However, in rivers with lower flows, or places where flow is disrupted (structures like dams and weirs) it is more likely that plastics will sink and persist in river sediments. Weather events can also facilitate or impede movement of microplastics. For example, heavy rain can trigger flood events that flush out plastic particles bound up in sediments, speeding up delivery to the ocean.

Sadly, the ultimate fate of microplastics, regardless of their delivery route, is usually in the digestive tracts of wildlife.

These plastic particles are easily mistaken for food and ingestion can mimic fullness and deliver harmful toxins to the animals that eat them. From riverfly insects to whales, plastic pollution is disrupting the natural balance of our ecosystems through its influence on food chains.

Working together

It is essential that to protect our oceans and rivers we stop plastics at source.

We are excited to be working with MCS to raise awareness about the connectivity of plastics from source to sea. Their work on changing policy around single-use plastics has never been more important and we will be adding our voice to help strengthen the case for protection of our freshwaters, as well marine.

To kick start the collaboration, we have developed this infographic to help teach more people that when it comes to plastic, rivers and oceans go hand in hand.

plastic pollution

As our plastics campaign lead, Lauren Mattingley summarises,

"Only by understanding the dynamics of microplastics in freshwater, will we be able to effectively measure and manage the contribution to our oceans, in turn protecting both marine AND freshwater life."

Visit our plastics campaign page to find out more:

S&TC joins partners across the Northern Hemisphere to launch the International Year of the Salmon (IYS) 2019

S&TC joins partners across the Northern Hemisphere to launch the International Year of the Salmon (IYS) 2019

One of the more significant things on our 2019 radar is the International Year of the Salmon; an opportunity to further our important work, collaborate with other salmon conservationists and help spread the word about these beautiful creatures who are sadly struggling.

What is the International Year of the Salmon (IYS)?

IYS is a North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) and North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC) initiative to support the conservation and restoration of wild salmon species. You can view the official IYS page here.

Salmon are at risk from environmental change and human activities across the Northern Hemisphere, but saving these beautiful and influential creatures requires a uniquely large-scale solution. The International Year of the Salmon sets out to protect salmon by bringing people together to share knowledge, raise public awareness and take action. We have a chance to save not just salmon, but also the communities and cultures that depend on them.

Why do Atlantic salmon need our help?

Wild Atlantic salmon are one of the world’s most iconic species, and a vital indicator of healthy aquatic environments. Their epic migration is one of nature’s greatest stories, swimming thousands of kilometres from home rivers to Northern Hemisphere oceans and back again. A rich cultural history has ensued, where people’s lives and ancestries have been shaped by their interactions with salmon.

Find out more about Atlantic salmon and their plight

However, Atlantic salmon are in a perilous state in their marine and freshwater environments. This is due to environmental change, as well as human activities. IYS will bring people together to share knowledge, stimulate investment in research, and raise public awareness to take appropriate action for salmon.  We have an opportunity to save not just salmon and their environments for future generations, but also the communities and cultures that depend on them.

How will IYS help wild salmon?

  • CONNECTION: The International Year of the Salmon brings together countries across the Northern Hemisphere, because no single country can hope to address fully the challenges that salmon face over their amazing migrations. In their epic migrations through rivers and oceans salmon know no borders; to help them we have to reach across borders and build bridges between countries and cultures.
  • KNOWLEDGE: The International Year of the Salmon will harness ongoing research and kick start partnerships and public action in Europe, North America and Asia to give salmon a better chance to survive and thrive. People across the Northern Hemisphere need to understand more about how migrating Atlantic salmon are unique, complex fish that are infinitely precious to those countries where they migrate, breed, give birth and die. Collaborating and sharing knowledge is essential to learn how best to help salmon.The International Year of the Salmon will draw on science, Indigenous knowledge, and the experience of fishers, policy makers, resource managers and others working to conserve and protect salmon.
  • ACTION: The negative effects that humans have on salmon are now at crucial levels – but it’s not too late. Anyone who cares about the survival of salmon can get involved in the International Year of the Salmon. Experts are needed – but it will take the passion and commitment of people from all walks of life to make the difference. Even the smallest contribution can help. Everyone has a role to play. Even if you've never seen salmon in the wild, the chances are they play a vital role in ecosystems essential to you. The International Year of the Salmon is your chance to join people across the world to make a difference. We have a global issue, but if we all act locally and do what we can, our combined efforts will make a big difference. Think global – act local.

How are S&TC getting involved with IYS?

We will be collaborating with partners all across the Northern Hemisphere to further our research and action on the threats that salmon face. The crucial research costs money. We are an independent charity receiving no government funding and rely on support from concerned, conservation-minded people just like you. You can support our work by becoming a member, or making a donation.

We have a range of exciting events planned to celebrate IYS 2019 and help protect and conserve salmon as part of a global effort. These events will be added to [iys page link]  in the coming weeks. You can also sign up to our newsletter [link] to keep fully up to date with what we are up to and how the International Year of the salmon is progressing.

Atlantic salmon populations across their range are in a serious and consistent decline, yet this important and fascinating species has a relationship with humankind stretching back into prehistory. We will be releasing regular educational resources designed to inspire, inform and enlighten on the plight of the salmon and it's incredible life cycle.

Stay tuned for more news of our involvement in International Year of the Salmon 2019!

A dismal end to 2018 for water companies, their regulators, and the government

The end of 2018 was not pretty for water companies.

Sadly, as always, our environment and waterways bear the brunt. 

 

Thames Water: deliberately ignoring alarms

First up was Thames Water, fined £2 million at Oxford Crown Court on 21st  December for a pollution incident in 2015 in which two Oxfordshire streams were polluted with raw sewage killing many fish.  

The Court heard that Thames Water had disregarded more than 800 high priority alarms in the six weeks prior to the incident, and a further 300 alarms were reportedly not properly investigated, which would have indicated that a key sewage pumping station was about to fail. A further alarm was apparently deliberately deactivated by staff during a nightshift.

Thames Water should hang its head in shame.

Southern Water: ongoing Ofwat investigation

Next up was Southern Water. Following a freedom of information battle with Ofwat, just before Christmas, we finally received confirmation from Ofwat that an investigation into Southern Water, begun in 2017, remains ongoing.

Ofwat has revealed that it is investigating breaches relating to the company’s general duty to provide and maintain its sewerage system to ensure its area is effectually drained, pursuant to section 94 of the Water Industry Act 1991.  Section 94 is, in effect, the core duty for the bigger water companies – the law requires them to collect and treat sewage properly.

Ofwat has confirmed that the investigation covers all of Southern Water’s wastewater treatment works, and that it is looking also at the company’s own reporting of compliance information to Ofwat between 2010 and 2017 in relation to those wastewater treatment sites.  

Obviously, while nothing is yet concluded, the fact that an investigation is now one and half years old and is dealing with such fundamental issues as the company’s general duty to provide and maintain a sewerage system, strongly suggests that Ofwat is not happy.

Ofwat and the Water Conservation Report

But Ofwat itself has hardly been the most aggressive of regulators and it is about time that it found its teeth. If any further evidence was required that Ofwat needs to start biting, it was delivered by the Government’s Water Conservation Report 2018  - slipped out on 19th December as we all left for the Christmas break.

The Water Conservation Report identified that water company leakage still represents about 22% of all treated water put into the supply network and has scarcely reduced since 2014.  In 2018 eight water companies missed their leakage targets. On the demand management side, per capita consumption of water has scarcely changed in recent years and only 50% of households have a metered supply.  

If one delves into Hansard, the record of Parliamentary debates and committees, it is not hard to find references going back over many years to the need to reduce leakage, increase metering and conserve water.

If one were to read watery debates from the 1990s or, indeed, those leading up to the Water Act 2003, the story would be depressingly familiar to the one we are presented with today.  

Moving forward in 2019

Both Government and Ofwat need to pull their respective fingers out – there are positive signs that the new regime at Ofwat might deliver more environmental protection than in the past, but the jury is still out.

We must have decisive action to reduce per capita consumption of water, introduce universal metering of domestic and industrial consumers (with appropriate safety nets for those essential users who need large supplies) and to finally get a grip of water company failure to address leakage.  

On protecting rivers from low flows due to over-abstraction, the Water Act 2014 requires the Government to report to Parliament by the end of May on progress on abstraction reform. One fears it will have very little new to say.

If the Government’s bold claims, to wish to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it, are to mean anything at all, the time for writing more reports, reviews and consultations is over. Action involving aggressive enforcement of the existing law must now follow.

Water companies must improve

However, while we can and should bemoan the chronic lack of firm action by Government, and by Ofwat, and indeed by the Environment Agency in failing to pursue more prosecutions against water companies, the real blame for the damage caused to the water environment by over abstraction, by sewage pollution, and by a general lack of stewardship, falls clearly at the feet of the water companies.  

Those of us in the NGO sector who have been ‘around the block’ have attended so many meetings with water company representatives, all so wonderfully reassuring, promising to sort out the problems. But it is easy to forget that it is now thirty years since water privatisation.

The ongoing failure of the water companies to bring their environmental performance up to a reasonable standard over three decades is a national shame.

 

- Words by Guy Linley-Adams, S&TC's Lawyer