2 years left? – we support River Action’s plan to save our lovely River Wye

By Dilys Merry
24th February 2022

We’re delighted to support the River Action Plan to Save the Wye. The Action Plan is very much in line with the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee’s report on rivers and water quality.

Just as we’ve been doing, River Action have highlighted how the recent rapid collapse in the Wye ecosystem is linked to the massive increase in intensive poultry units (IPUs). The resultant high levels of nutrients in the water have caused increased occurrence of algal blooms which blanket the river and are killing plant life and many aquatic species.

An algal bloom smothering plants and fish in the River Llynfi which feeds into the Wye
An algal bloom smothering plants and fish in the River Llynfi, which feeds into the Wye  | Antonia Salter of scenicshoots.com

The plan calls for quick action on the following points –

  • A planning moratorium on the construction of new (or expansion of existing) intensive livestock production units and any anaerobic digesters which give out nutrients
  • A requirement for all intensive livestock units to have an approved Manure Management Plan by end 2022
  • A requirement for all free-range egg producing IPUs to have a Nutrient Runoff Mitigation Plan (NRMP) approved by the end of 2022
  • A significant reduction in ‘number of bird’ thresholds for IPUs which fall within the permitting jurisdictions of the EA and NRW
  • A requirement for all watercourses within the Wye catchment to be protected by continuous river edge buffers of a minimum of 10 metres
  • Additional funding by the UK and Welsh Governments to the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales to enable proper monitoring
  • Any non-compliance to result in the closure of the IPU or anaerobic digester in question

More details can be found on this link to the River Action plan.

We believe the River Action Plan is vital for the environmental survival of the Wye Catchment. It is also a strong first step in a move towards a Water Protection Zone. The big question is “Will the Governments of England & Wales agree and fund this recovery programme?” We have been warned that without significant intervention parts of the Wye Catchment may only have two years left before they pass a tipping point and eutrophication is the result.

The River Wye winds below a wooded escarpment west of Hereford
The River Wye winds below a wooded escarpment west of Hereford Mike Erskine