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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2006, 01:38 GMT 02:38 UK
Water waste 'threatens wildlife'
Water coming out of pipe
Wasting water can have an impact on nature, the report suggests
Water wastage needs to be tackled to prevent the "devastating effects" shortages can have on the environment and wildlife, campaigners have warned.

The impact of the current drought in England has been made worse by leaks, careless household use and "needless" land drainage, they say.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' report has been backed by the WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund.

More stringent efficiency standards for new homes are among its suggestions.

While we may not be able to prevent natural drought, we can reduce its impact on wildlife and the environment
Phil Burston, RSPB

"Managing water in this sane way could prevent the need for costly and environmentally damaging new infrastructure and reduce the overall environmental impact of supplying us with water," said RSPB water policy officer Phil Burston, the report's author.

"While we may not be able to prevent natural drought, we can reduce its impact on wildlife and the environment by transforming the way we manage water."

Declining species

The report said the drought in southern England has had "disastrous consequences" on wildlife and natural habitat.

Moors and heaths are at risk from fire while dry soil conditions are cited for a decline in song thrush and tree sparrow numbers.

Wetland birds have been denied vital breeding habitat and the types of insect-feed they need to survive, it added.

Fish and mammals such as the water vole are said to have been affected by falling river levels.

And pollutants and nutrients from farms left concentrated in shallow water have promoted algal blooms that kills large numbers of fish.

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the Salmon and Trout Association, the National Trust, the Anglers' Conservation Association, the Wildlife Trusts and Waterwise are among the other organisations to back the report.

Its publication comes as the Environment Agency warned the impact of the drought on nature across England and Wales was "widespread" and no longer contained just to the south.

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