Agenda item

Water quality presentations


We received a joint presentation from Sam Thomas, Environment Agency and Holly Sisley, Natural Resources Wales, regarding water quality on the River Wye.


In doing so, the following points were noted:


·         With regard to phosphates and mercury levels within the River Wye, it was noted that the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are now able to detect these element in the tissues of living organisms within the river.  These investigations are ongoing. It is anticipated that further information on this matter will be published in due course, nationally.


·         There have been issues relating to phosphates in the River Wye for a long period of time. High rainfall events and flooding occurrences within Wales in recent years could have further exacerbated this problem causing soils and sediments to wash into the river.


·         There are studies being undertaken investigating how phosphates, once in the river gravel systems, can re-mobilise into the water column. Research into these issues is ongoing so definitive answers are not yet available in respect of this matter.


·         It was noted that the sense of urgency has been recognised by the EA and NRW and it has been instilled already to restore the health of the River Wye.  There is a vast amount of work being undertaken via the Nutrient Management Plan Board.  The new asset management plan for the water companies began this year with the majority of required measures being put in place between now and 2027.  Further measures identified would be for the next five year cycle.


·         It was recognised that diffuse input of phosphate from the wider catchment needs concerted effort across multiple sectors applying pressure to create change.


·         This matter should not be looked at in terms of water quality alone.  Issues occurring on the land such as climate change is having an impact on our water bodies.


·         There is a need for more resource to not only monitor the changes but also to  monitor the interventions that are planned to ensure that the Wye remains a healthy river for now and future generations.


·         In response to a question raised regarding spot checks on water course consent forms and the inclusion of an ecologist being a part of the consultation process, it was noted that the EA representative would take this matter back to the EA for consideration.


·         The Chair of the Nutrient Management Board informed the Joint Advisory Committee that the phosphates in the River Wye has been a long standing issue that needs to be addressed.  A study is being brought forward from the University of Leeds and Lancaster looking at legacy phosphate. It was noted that the soils around the River Wye contain high quantities of phosphate already and phosphate tends to mobilise in peak events.  There needs to be a sense of urgency to address this issue. Citizen Science is working with the EA to bolster the data flow to identify a more detailed analysis of what is happening within the River Wye. Flooding and water quality are linked. Therefore, solving one of these issues will help towards solving the other issue.


On behalf of the Joint Advisory Committee, the Chair thanked the representatives from the EA and NRW for providing their presentation on water quality on the River Wye. The Chair also thanked the Chair of the Nutrient Management Board for attending the meeting.



Supporting documents: