Water Pollution Reduction Plans Revealed
The government has announced new plans to protect waterways in England, with measures included to reduce nutrient pollution, which poses a significant and urgent risk to freshwater habitats that provide homes to insects, fish and wetland birds.
Rising levels of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen can accelerate plant growth and disrupt natural ecological processes, which has a devastating impact on wildlife.
But the new nutrient mitigation scheme, devised by Natural England, will help to support local wildlife and boost access to nature through investment in projects such as expanding woodlands and wetlands.
This will then in turn allow local planning authorities to give the green light to new developments in places that have issues with nutrient pollution, delivering sustainable new homes and ensuring that building projects are able to go ahead.
These latest steps build on the plans already in place to reduce water pollution, including proposed targets to reduce the key sources of river pollution. There are also plans in place for the biggest water company infrastructure project ever to drive down storm overflow discharges.
And the Environment Agency has been granted new funding to increase farm inspections to at least 4,000 a year by 2023, while new farming schemes reward land managers and farmers for sustainable operations, such as buffering rivers and using cover crops to help reduce runoff.
There is also a new legal duty on water and sewerage companies to upgrade certain wastewater plants, due to be introduced via an amendment to the levelling up and regeneration bill.
Chair of Natural England Tony Juniper said: “Wetlands and estuaries are home to a wide variety of internationally-important wildlife species, from wading birds to insects and from fish to special plants.
“Pollution from excess nutrients is causing serious damage to many of these fragile places and if we are to meet our national targets for Nature recovery it is vital that we take concerted, coordinated action to protect them.”
One of the biggest nutrient problems our waterways face is phosphorus, with buildups now stockpiling in rivers, lakes and streams following years of runoff from farms and fields, as well as human sewage and industrial practices.
As levels of phosphorus start to increase, toxic algal blooms start to appear, producing powerful toxins and potentially making waterways unsafe.
Research from the Environment Agency shows that concentrations of this nutrient in rivers climbed significantly between 1950 and the 1980s, down to the use of mineral-containing detergents, population growth and the growing popularity of artificial fertilisers.
Over the last few decades, good progress has been seen in tackling pollution of this kind, but still it seems that more work must be done, with 73 per cent of lakes and 55 per cent of rivers in England currently failing standards for good ecological status.
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