River basin plans published

Posted: Thursday 28th January 2010

Defra, the Environment Agency and Welsh Assembly Government have published River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) for ten river basin districts in Englandand Wales. The plans set out how good water status will be achieved for each lake, stretch of a river, estuary or coastline.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said:

“The River Basin Management Plans show our commitment to building on the improvements in water quality of our rivers, lakes and coastlines that we have seen in the last 20 years. The return of fish species and other wildlife that had previously disappeared shows what we can do.

“I’m also pleased to announce £1million for the Environment Agency to bring forward water quality investigations they have planned in England for the next three years, so we can find out where the problems are and get on with dealing with them. In addition, the money available for farmers to tackle agricultural water pollution will be increased to £7.5million.”

Dr Paul Leinster, Environment Agency Chief Executive, said:

“These major plans, approved today by Government, will help improve over 9,500 miles of rivers across England and Wales by 2015.

“The quality of rivers in England and Wales continue to improve. That is why we have seen the return of otters, eels and salmon to rivers like the Thames, Mersey and Tyne.

“The plans set out actions to tackle sources of pollution and to help reach challenging new EU standards on water quality. We will be working hard locally to deliver the plans alongside farmers, water companies and groups such as the Rivers Trusts and RSPB, who also have a key role to play.”

Welsh Assembly Government Environment Minister Jane Davidson said:

"It is our duty to ensure the quality of our rivers are maintained and protected for future generations. These plans set out how we intend to achieve this so our waterways are a healthy, thriving environment for both mankind and wildlife."

The Water Framework Directive changes how we measure water quality in England. Water status is measured by examining the ecological and chemical make-up of the water and the standard required to reach ‘good status’ is common across Europe. Although the previous assessment method showed a trend of improving water quality, the new assessment process is significantly more challenging.

To meet these tough targets, everyone will need to play their part – including water companies, farming groups, industry and NGOs.

Currently the most common causes of water pollution are run off from rural and urban land and discharge of waste water from industry and sewage overflows. The Government and Environment Agency is working closely with farmers, businesses and water companies to reduce pollution and improve water quality.

The RBMPs detail how the target water status will be achieved for each river, lake, estuary, coastline and groundwater in England and Wales and have been developed in by the Environment Agency working with co-deliverers, who will also carry out actions within the plans.

Recent key achievements in water quality include:

· Otters, salmon and other wildlife are returning to many rivers for the first time since the industrial revolution.

· Otters can now be found in every English county

· The River Mersey, once the most polluted river in Europe, is the cleanest it has been for a century. Salmon have now returned to the river.

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