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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
UK river quality survey
Scotland Northern Ireland North West North East Wales Midlands East Anglia South West South East Scotland North East Northern Ireland North West Midlands East Anglia Wales South East South West Find out more about what global environmental lobbyists WWF say about the quality of water in some of the UK's most important rivers and wetlands.

The WWF's Water and Wetland Index (WWI) suggests that the rivers Trent and Severn are among a list of European rivers that need major restoration work to reach European standards of cleanliness.

However, the survey, compiled from the opinions of 140 experts advising the WWF, suggested that UK rivers are on the whole in relatively good health and are well monitored.

Each area named below has been given a score based on the WWI results.


Scotland

The WWF report finds that Scotland's monitoring of freshwater falls below the European average and that it also lags behind England and Wales.

The index shows that Scotland's rivers are in relatively good health, but concludes that lochs, wetlands and groundwater fare poorly in terms of management.

It says that only about 150 of the 27,000 lochs in Scotland are monitored.

The WWF says that the main problems facing Scotland's wetlands and rivers are:

  • Agricultural pollution
  • No control over water abstraction
  • Lack of clear biodiversity protection targets
  • Fragemented management

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    Northern Ireland

    River Bann and Lough Neagh.

    Famous for its salmon fishing and Lough Neagh eels, the river and lough are under environmental threat, according to WWF.

    The Lough is enriched by nutrients from a number of agricultural sources and treated sewage.

    Lower and Upper Lough Erne

    Lower Lough Erne is the second largest lake in the UK. While there is chemical data on the site, there is little biological data.

    The WWF says that the lough is increasingly eutrophic, suffering from an excessive growth in some plant life. The survey says that this is probably due to agricultural run off from large scale pig farming in the Republic of Ireland.

    Upper Lough Erne is a very large and complex freshwater system, says the WWF, which remains particularly representative of wetland in the British Isles.

    Like Lower Lough Erne, it is increasingly eutrophic due to large agricultural run off.

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    North East

    No information available at present.

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    North West

    Leighton Moss (North west region)

    WWF Index score

  • Monitoring programmes: 3 (Adequate)
  • Ecological state: 3.5 (Good quality)

    Leighton Moss is an international recognised site between Silverdale and Warton on the edge of Morecambe Bay.

    It contains the largest Phragmites reedbed in Northwest England and also shallow meres and woodland.

    The WWF says that it has a "fascinating" varied wildlife including otters and birds such as breeding bitterns, bearded tits and marsh harriers. It is also home to a large collection of other species including a rare hoverfly, Sphserophoria loewi, and nine species of dragonflies.

    While water quality is very high, the WWF says that agricultural run-off remains a potential hazard.

    The Moss is also susceptible, says the WWF, to saline damage coming from a tidal sluice at Morecambe Bay.

    River Derwent(Cumbria)

    WWF index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 3 (Adequate)
  • Ecological state: 4 (High quality)

    The River Derwent has its headwaters on the highest flanks of the Lake District mountains, close to Great End and Scafell Pike.

    The WWF said monitoring programs were generally good but there were weaknesses on monitoring the impacts of recreation activities, including water sports, tourist attractions and fishing (score 2 out of 4) and forestry (3).

    Esthwaite Water(North west region)

    WWF index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 4 (Good)
  • Ecological state: 4 (High quality)

    Esthwaite is considerably smaller than neighbouring Lake Windermere so does not have large numbers of tourists visiting. There is no boating allowed, but trout angling is popular.

    There are reedbeds and some waterfowl of interest to birdwatchers.

    WWF said the major stresses on the aquatic ecosystem on the Esthwaite Water include eutrophication caused by sewage outflows and, possibly, a fish farm operating on the lake.

    Recent surveys have shown excessive amounts of algae growth with possible impacts on the composition and richness of the aquatic flora, said WWF.

    Ullswater(North west region)

    Lake Windermere (North west region)

    WWF index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 4 (Good)
  • Ecological state: 4 (High quality)

    Lake Windermere has a long history of recreational use - in particular sailing.

    Conflicts between the use of the lake and its natural beauty have been a matter of concern for some time, said WWF. There are no European conservation designations at the site.

    Tourism and recreational pressures affect Windermere and small oil spills can cause problems, the report said.

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    Midlands

    River Severn

    WWF index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 4 (Good)
  • Ecological state: 2 (Fair quality)

    The River Severn is Britain's longest river, rising in mid Wales and flowing for 220 miles to the Bristol Channel.

    There is an extensive intertidal zone, one of the largest in the UK, comprising mudflats, sand banks, shingle, and rocky platforms.

    The WWF said the marine and coastal wetlands of the Severn Estuary are designated as an important conservation area but are under pressure from several sources including sewage sludge spreading on adjacent fields and pollution from sewage outfalls.

    River Trent

    WWF index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 4 (Good)
  • Ecological state: 2.5 (Fair to good quality)

    The Trent is the third longest river in England and one of the main providers of water for the cities near its banks.

    At the same time, water discharged by the many industries has, in the past, caused pollution. The big cleanup campaign on the Trent has been a major success story for river recovery.

    WWF said monitoring programs were generally good. However, there were weaknesses on monitoring the impacts of recreation activities, including water sports, tourist attractions and fishing (score 2 out of 4).

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    East Anglia

    Nene Washes

    WWF index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 3 (Adequate)
  • Ecological state: 3 (Good quality)

    The Nene washes is an internationally recognised home for national and international breeding and wintering waders and wildfowl.

    However, the survey found that there are eutrophication problems at this site, the process where algae and other plants grow excessively to the detriment of other life. Two alien species identified were carp and Azolla, an aquatic fern.

    The WWF said that the reserve managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was in excellent condition, as much as half of the Nene Washes suffer from the impact of arable farming and the drawing of water for others uses.

    Ouse Washes

    WWF index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 3 (Adequate)
  • Ecological state: 1 (Poor quality)

    The Ouse washes is a nationally and internationally recognised wetlands which acts as a winter flooding system for the surrounding neutral grasslands.

    Among the rare plants in the washes are whorled water-milfoil, greater water parsnip, river water-dropwort, fringed water-lily, long-stalked pondweed, hair-like pondweed, grass-wrack pondweed, tasteless water-pepper and marsh dock.

    Human impact on the Ouse Washes has included drainage and reclamation, introduction of new species and barrage or dam defences.

    Silting in the Great Ouse River is also affecting the drainage qualities of the Washes.

    Recent spring and summer flooding has adversely affected both the breeding birds and the traditional washland management regime, particularly grazing and mowing of grasslands.

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    Wales

    River Usk

    WWF Index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 4 (Good)
  • Ecological state: 4 (High quality)

    A principal salmon river, it remains largely unaffected by industrial pollution.

    Threats include degradation and loss of riverine and wetland habitats through land drainage, floodplain development and changing agricultural practices.

    River Dee (Afon Dyrfrdwy)

    WWF Index scores:

  • Monitoring programmes: 4 (Good)
  • Ecological state: 2.5 (Fair quality)

    A site of international importance for its bird populations, threats including falling groundwater levels, incorrect disposal of sheep dip, sewage discharges and over-fishing in the estuary.

    River Wye

    WWF Index scores:

  • Monitoring programmes: 4 (Good)
  • Ecological state: 4 (High quality)

    The River Wye remains largely unpolluted and has some of the best fishing in the British Isles.

    Threats include degradation and loss of habitats through land drainage, floodplain development and changing agricultural practices.

    Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake)

    Llyn Tegid is the largest natural lake in Wales and home of the genetically distinct gwyniad fish.

    There are concerns over eutrophication (largely growth in blue-green algae) in the lake from agricultural pollution.

    Crymlyn Bog

    WWF Index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 2 (Sparse)
  • Ecological state: 2.5 (Fair quality)

    Described by WWF as "a natural oasis in an industrial landscape, whose survival is little short of miraculous", it is threatened by its neighbours including a large oil refinery, housing estates and a rubbish tip.

    Cors Caron

    WWF Index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 2 (Sparse)
  • Ecological state: 3 (Good quality)

    WWF describes Cors Caron as one of the finest raised bog systems in Britain, supporting plants such as sun-dews, bog rosemary and cotton grasses.

    Threats include overgrazing by domestic livestock, habitat burning, and drainage/reclamation for agriculture.

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    South East

    Pevensey Levels (South east region)

    WWF Index scores:

  • Monitoring programmes: 2.5 (Scatter)
  • Ecological: 2 (Fair quality)

    Pevensey Levels is 3,501 hectares of low-lying grazing meadow with a network of ditches supporting important aquatic flora and invertebrates with the nationally rare sharp-leaved pondweed, the great silver water beetle, and the fen raft spider.

    Bird numbers have been declining for two decades. In 1991, English Nature began a pilot scheme to fund local landowners to maintain the ditches that make up the Levels. Around 60% of the area is now part of the scheme - but the WWF says that there has been no improvement in the number of birds.

    The Environment Agency is preparing a management plan but the WWF says that there has been insufficient funding to encourage landowners to allow surface flooding and retain high water levels.

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    South West

    Chippenham Fen (South west region)

    WWF Index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 2 (Scatter)
  • Ecological state: 3 (Good quality)

    Chippenham Fen is an international recognised site of environmental importance and is principally managed by English Nature.

    The site is of international and national importance for its wetland habitats, in particular its fen and fen meadow communities. The central core and western end of the site supports open, tall and often species-rich fen dominated by Common Reed and Saw Sedge.

    These meadows also support the largest UK population of the nationally rare Cambridge Milk Parsley.

    The WWF report suggests that persistent drought could become a threat as seven of the past nine years have received "well below average" rainfall for the regions.

    The region is under pressure to increase water extraction which could affect local springs and the acquifier, the WWF says.

    Somerset Levels WWF Index scores

  • Monitoring programmes: 2 (Scatter)
  • Ecological state: 3 (Good quality)

    The Somerset Levels is an internationally recognised wetlands conservation site within the largest area of lowland wet grassland and associated wetland habitat remaining in Britain.

    It covers about 35,000 hectares in the flood plains of the Rivers Axe, Brue, Parrett, Tone and their tributaries. During the winter it becomes an important home for wildfowl and is also an important home for breeding waders.

    According to the WWF, farming and forestry drainage, hard-engineered flood defences, urban development and industrial water supply have all caused problems on the Somerset Levels for many years.

    It says that these and other factors such as rising sea levels mean that it is "particularly important" for a scheme to manage the water in the area.

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    20 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
    UK's polluted rivers named
    20 Apr 01 | UK
    A tale of two rivers
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