Citizen science project fighting to save ‘magnificent’ river

Funds raised to support volunteer campaign on one of Britain’s favourite waterways

Citizen science project fighting to save 'magnificent' river

by Angling Times |

HUNDREDS of local volunteers are battling to save one of Britain’s most treasured rivers after claims it’s been repeatedly ‘failed’ by authorities.

The River Wye offers top-notch coarse fishing in breathtaking surroundings, but in recent seasons its ecological health has suffered a sharp decline. In summer, algal blooms turn its normally crystal-clear waters into a soupy mess, while its once plentiful beds of ranunculus weed are rapidly disappearing.

The River Wye offers top-notch coarse fishing in breathtaking surroundings
The River Wye offers top-notch coarse fishing in breathtaking surroundings

Poultry farms along the river’s catchment are believed to be a key reason for many of the Wye’s issues, but National Resources Wales (NRW) downplayed the farms’ impact last year.

However, activists from the Wye Valley Citizen Science Monitoring Project are fighting for change. By carrying out nutrient tests, they’re seeking to establish the true impact of the farms and have just raised £36,000 of donations to support their battle.

“The aim is to produce data that can’t be ignored,” said River Action UK Chairman, Charles Watson.

“We have hundreds of volunteers testing above and below farms, and we’ll use half the funds to hire someone to process the results and give us meaningful figures to put to the authorities. The remaining half will allow us to increase volunteers by 50 per cent and buy more equipment.”

The volunteers are checking the levels of phosphates and nitrates on the Wye
The volunteers are checking the levels of phosphates and nitrates on the Wye

The work being done is something that the Environment Agency (EA) and NRW should really be doing, Charles said, but they’re simply not on the scene.

“We’re going to war to save the river and the EA and NRW are ‘missing in action’,” he added.

“I’m not criticising these organisations’ people on the ground – but the EA’s budget has been cut by 75 per cent, and enforcement has fallen by 95 per cent. We have to take the law into our own hands, gathering evidence to force them to take action against offenders.”

Charles hopes that the citizen-led approach will one day be used on other rivers.

“If you can do a lateral flow test, you can do a nutrient test – they’re that easy” he explained. “All we’re currently looking for are phosphates and nitrates, but there are so many other things you can test for.”

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