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In 2021, we launched our first campaign to draw attention to the severe problem of the pollution of the River Wye. This campaign specifically targeted the Intensive Poultry Industry, whose dramatic proliferation in recent years across the Wye catchment is now recognised as one of the prime causes of the desperate recent environmental collapse of the river.

Working closely with other NGOs and activists we achieved significant progress in building public and political awareness of this environmental scandal. Now we are campaigning for the implementation of specific solutions and remedies that are urgently needed to save this iconic British river from irreparable damage.


From Attention to Action

With the cause of the problem established, it is now critical to put in place as a matter of the utmost urgency a plan to save the River Wye.

It is fundamental that the River Action Plan is enforced on a catchment-wide basis – with the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) working in close collaboration.

The adoption and implementation of this plan would establish one of the UK’s first catchment-approach environmental protection plans.

Importantly, it will create a precedent for other river catchments facing similar levels of severe environmental distress.

The Key Actions of The Plan Include:

A planning moratorium on the construction of any new (or extension of any existing) intensive livestock production units (poultry, bovine & pigs) must take effect across the Wye Catchment immediately. A similar moratorium must be placed on the construction of any new Anaerobic Digestors (ADs), unless their digestate outputs are nutrient neutral.

All Intensive Poultry Units (IPUs) within the Wye Catchment which are subject to permitting by either the EA or NRW must have had approved by the end of 2022 a Manure Management Plan (MMP). This will entail the chicken litter produced by the IPU (which historically has been spread locally) being appropriately processed and then removed from the Wye Catchment, where a significant Phosphate (P) surplus exists within the region’s soils. It will then be transported to arable farming locations elsewhere the UK, where the soils have a proven P deficit, thus enabling the substitution of imported synthetic phosphate fertilisers. Once approved, these MMPs must be fully implemented by the end of 2023. The same must apply to ADs, whereby any digestate outputs containing nutrients must be exported out of the catchment on the same basis as above.

All free-range egg producing IPUs must have a Nutrient Runoff Mitigation Plan (NRMP) approved by the end of 2022, whereby the negative environmental impact on watercourses caused by nutrient run off from egg laying ranges is mitigated by appropriate nature-based solutions. Once approved, these NRMPs must be fully implemented by the end of 2023.

The number of bird thresholds for IPUs coming within the permitting jurisdictions of the EA and NRW must be reduced significantly over the next five years on a progressive sliding scale. At present any IPU that holds under 40,000 birds is unregulated and is therefore completely “off grid” – resulting in hundreds of thousands (and potentially millions) of birds within the catchment, falling outside environmental regulations.

All watercourses within the Wye Catchment must be protected by appropriate River Buffers of a minimum of 10 metres, providing a nature-based separation zone between all agricultural activities and running water. Funding for creating these buffer zones should be made available to farmers under government nature recovery/agri-environment schemes.

Additional funding must be allocated by Government in Westminster and Cardiff to the EA and NRW respectively (via either grant aid, increased licence fees or other “polluter pays” sources of revenue) to firstly conduct inspections of all IPUs and ADs to ensure the above MMPs and NRMPs are approved and implemented within the required timescales; and secondly, to conduct an annual audit to ensure that they are adhering to the provisions of their respective MMPs and NRMPs.

Any non-compliance with the requirements listed above or with other current environmental legislation (including Farming Rules for Water in England) above should result in the closure of the IPU or AD in question until compliance and re-approval/re-permitting is obtained.

How you can help…

Your support is what matters. We need to collaborate and all play our part to put pressure on the government and businesses for change to happen. To save our rivers

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Watch this space for more developments

…a huge thank you from River Action!