The Wye and Usk Foundation, Rivers Trust and fourteen Herefordshire landowners have this week submitted an ambitious bid to Defra’s Landscape Recovery Scheme (part of ELMS) to help resolve the water pollution crisis afflicting the iconic and much-loved River Wye.
River Action wholeheartedly supports the group’s proposal and calls on the Government to select this project to receive funding and to serve as a flagship example of the power of good farming practices and nature-based solutions to reverse our rivers’ fortunes.
The proposed project aims to address the dramatic ecological decline of the River Wye. In recent years, the river has been increasingly choked by algal blooms resulting from high levels of nutrient run-off mostly linked to the boom in massive intensive poultry units in the catchment. Algal blooms deplete water oxygen levels resulting in the suffocation of fish and vegetation: over 95% of the Wye’s water crowfoot (Ranunculus) has disappeared and salmon populations have declined to their lowest since records began in the 1940s.
The proposal, which would cover 1100 hectares initially but with scope to expand if successful, includes a range of nature-based solutions aimed at restoring the floodplain to mitigate flood events and nutrient loss and creating wetland habitats to buffer nutrient-rich land drainage, as well as supporting changes to agricultural and land use practices to prevent phosphate levels increasing.
Martin Williams, who farms on the banks of the Wye and is a leading member of the group of landowners submitting the bid, has highlighted that “The bid is a golden opportunity for farmers in the catchment. If agriculture is 70% of the problem this project is a huge step towards us being 70% of the solution”.
Commenting on the submission River Action Founder and Chairman said:
“The measures proposed by this group set a blueprint for mitigating further agricultural pollution of any river catchment facing ecological crisis similar to that of the Wye. Indeed, the type of nature-based solutions being proposed are integral to River Action’s recently published Plan to Save the Wye. Up and down this catchment and the country as a whole, forward-thinking farmers have the solutions needed to safeguard our rivers while producing affordable and high-quality local produce. Both Government and businesses within the supply chain must now step up to provide the funding and resources needed to unlock that potential.”