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Link: https://www.aquaread.com/blog/pollution-in-uk-rivers/

The State of the UKҳ Rivers: Clean or Polluted?

The UKҳ rivers are a crucial part of our environment that both wildlife and humans depend on. Not only are they sources of enjoyment and leisure, but we and many species of animals quite simply need them to survive.

As more of our rivers dry out and become polluted, the species that depend on them begin dying out. And those animals that remain need the water quality to be such that they can rely on the water bodies.

In the UK, we havelost 90% of our wetland habitats in the last century, and over 10% of freshwater and wetland species are on the brink of extinction. With two thirds of existing species in decline, itҳ clear that something must be done.

So whatҳ the reality for the UKҳ rivers? The Environmental Audit Committee releaseda comprehensive study into river water quality earlier this year. We wanted to unpack some of the findings, causes, and what they might mean for the future of these precious waters.

Key findings regarding river quality

To understand the key findings, we must first understand the framework used.

The general classification system used by the Environment Agency and the Environmental Audit Committee is that of ѥcological statusҮ чoodҠecological status is the primary objective for all bodies of water.

Established by theWater Framework Directive, this system looks at the ecological, physico-chemical, quantitative, and morphological aspects of a given body of water to determine how far it sways from undisturbed conditions.

The initial objective of the WFD, created in 2000, was to bring all European bodies of water up to ӧoodԠby 2015. Since then, the timetable has shifted, making the goal year 2027.

And how is the UK faring?

The ecological status of the UKҳ rivers

Unfortunately, as it stands,only 14% of rivers in England currently have good ecological status.

As you might be able to predict from this shocking statistic, this means the Government isnot on track to meet the requirements of the WFD by 2027. In fact, as the EAC mentions, many reliable institutions ֠such asCountryside Link ֠suggest that our rivers have the worst water quality in Europe.

Thatҳ a poor claim to fame if ever there was one!

So letҳ take a look at the chemical makeup of the UKҳ rivers to understand a little more about what might be causing this averagely poor ecological status.

Water quality indicators

The EACҳ findings indicate some varied results when it comes to the actual makeup of these waters, with some wins and losses. The below figures indicate the percentage of UK rivers with a ѧood statusҠfor the concentration of the following chemicals:

Dissolved Oxygen: 82%
Ammonia: 92%
Phosphorus: 45%
Hazardous chemicals: 0%

Dissolved oxygen

DO is essentially the measure of oxygen levels in a body of water נas you can imagine, this is pretty crucial to sustaining life both under and on the water. If thereҳ too little or too much oxygen, aquatic life can come to harm and die out.

Low levels of DO in water can be caused, for example, by a process called eutrophication. This often occurs when high levels of nutrients from agricultural or industrial runoff enter the water, feeding harmful algal blooms that spread and:

Emit toxins harmful to aquatic life
Prevent light from reaching other plants and, as a result,
Cause plants to die and use up remaining oxygen in the decomposition process.
Ammonia

High levels of ammonia in water usually strongly indicate contamination נnamely by fertiliser, animal feed, and manufacturing practices.

An unfortunate side effect of ammonia excess can be eutrophication (as explained above).

Phosphorus

As with many water quality indicators, a certain amount of phosphorus in water is natural and normal. But again, too much of it can cause devastating processes like eutrophication.

Itҳ considered a Ѭimiting nutrientҠנas in, the amount of phosphorus in a body of water controls the rate at which algae and plants grow. And funnily enough, you can have too much growth in a body of water.

Balance is the key here and, like with plenty of other elements in the environment, us humans unfortunately often tip that balance with agriculture, industry, and urbanisation.

Hazardous chemicals

The fact that 0% of the UKҳ rivers score ѧoodҠfor their concentration of hazardous chemicals is, frankly, abysmal.

Hazardous chemicals can include:

Metals
Pesticides
Solvents
Inorganic poisons (e.g. arsenic)
PCBs (carcinogenic chemical compounds)
Whatҳ causing river pollution?

Sir James Bevan, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, told the CEA thatwater quality in Englandҳ rivers is ѦlatliningҼ/a>. He said that the Ѵwo main polluters, the water and farming sectors, are not yetŠdoing enough to protect and enhance the environment.Ҋ

And the statistics most certainly agree נthe following were identified by the CEA as the 3 key contributors to river pollution:

Agricultural pollution

They found thatagricultural pollution from rural areas was affecting just under half (40%) of the UKҳ water bodies.

Ploughing, crop spraying, and the use of slurry and pesticides all contribute to surface water pollution, which then runs into rivers. Many agrochemicals like pesticides and fertilisers are jam-packed with river-damaging chemicals.

Sewage and wastewater

The second most polluting factor(s) come in the form of sewage and wastewater. These affect 36% of the UKҳ rivers נand itҳ not surprising, given the innumerable reports of effluent releases over the last few years.

Urban runoff

Also known as Ѽa href="https://www.aquaread.com/blog/how-does-urban-runoff-affect-water-quality/">urban diffuse pollutionҬ run-off from towns, cities, and transport affects 18% of rivers.

Activities like landscape irrigation, car washing, fuel usage, and more can cause pollutants to leach into waterways נespecially if theyҲe helped along by rainwater.

How to tell if a river is polluted

With all this in mind, you might be wondering how to tell if a river is polluted while youҲe out and about. Without the presence of actual rubbish like plastic bottles and bags, itҳ not often something we think about when going about our days.

Key signs to look for include:

Sharp smells that may indicate chemical pollution
An oily sheen on the waterҳ surface
Dead fish floating on the surface
A strong smell of eggs that may indicate sulphur pollution
Discolouration (orange, red, purple, black, blue)
Large mats of algae or the presence of a ѳcumҠon the surface

If you spot any of these signs yourself, itҳ a good idea to report it to your local council orreport an environmental incident here.

Solutions to river pollution

Of course, the most obvious solutions arenҴ always the easiest to implement. WeҶetalked before about the fact that clean waters will never exist without governmental and organisational changes; without brave policy-making and ongoing management.

The solutions are very possible, but whatҳ important is that we start now נrather than setting another goal for another 10 yearsҠtime.

Work is being done all over the world and in the UK looking at ways to improve the biodiversity of our polluted waters again. For example, theWater Friendly Farming Project suggests that flood and sediment interception could benefit biodiversity, as could the creation of clean water ponds made for biodiversity.

As for our rivers as they stand (or, hopefully, flow), regular monitoring is key. Be it aconstruction company monitoring their run-off,mining operations collecting data, or local councils and environment agencies keeping a close eye onwater quality.

If any of those sound like you, Aquaread is here to help נwith reliable water quality testing equipment for arange of parameters. If you need any help or have questions about our products, please doget in touch. And in the meantime, feel free to browse ourenvironment policy to discover our commitments.

The postThe State of the UKҳ Rivers: Clean or Polluted? appeared first onAquaread.
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Category: State, Rivers:, Clean, Polluted?
Found: 05.12.2022

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