Andrew Lovett (UEA ) and Geoff Bateman (EA) talk about Water Quality on the BBC Radio 4 Programme ‘ Farming Today’ Thursday 1st September 2011
Now if you were following the news earlier this week you could beforgiven for thinking that the cleansing of British rivers has been a real uccess story. The Environment Agency nnounced that they are the healthiest they’ve been in more than twenty years
but a leading environmental scientist has told Farming Today that there’s no ay the quality of all UK rivers will meet EU targets by the deadline of 2015.
The European Water Framework Directive became aw in 2003 and sets quality standards for rivers, lakes, estuaries and
coasts. It requires all, that’s one undred per cent, of water bodies to reach good status by 2015.
Professor Andrew Lovett is from the niversity of East Anglia.
Professor Andrew Lovett (University of East Anglia): I don’t see how they can expect to meet the argets across the country, I don’t find it easy to see how you could expect to chieve the level of improvement that the Water Framework Directive requires in the timescale of a few years. It can be ecades between what’s gone in to the soil and in to the ground then appears in he river flow, o it’s, it’s not a quick system in terms of response ime. I think we’re looking at gradual mprovements probably over at least several decades.
CG: Andrew Lovett. Well Northern Ireland has a target of just under sixty per cent of water courses achieving a good status by 2015, Scotland should achieve over fifty per cent while the Environment Agency has set a target of just thirty four per cent of rivers in England and Wales achieving that status. I asked Geoff Bateman, the agency’s Head of Fisheries and Biodiversity, why they couldn’t get anywhere near that one hundred per cent EU target.
Geoff Bateman (Head of Fisheries and Biodiversity, Environment Agency): It’s simply because we’re a small island with a huge number of people and many of our water courses are no longer natural, they’ve been interfered with man for a long time.
CG: Now the Environment Agency has set a, a target of thirty four per cent of rivers to be in good condition by 2015, I mean that’s a much lower percentage, it doesn’t sound very ambitious when Europe is asking for one hundred per cent.
GB: Yes and similar to our European cousins they have similar problems. The investment of money that’s going in over those five to six years is many billions of pounds and it’s not just about achieving good status it’s about not allowing deterioration as well, so there’s a huge cost to actually preventing deterioration.
CG: How does the quality of UK rivers compare with the rest of Europe?
GB: In Germany they’re hoping to go from twenty two per cent in 2009 to twenty nine per cent, which is a seven per cent improvement. In France forty per cent to sixty seven per cent probably relating to the more rural nature of parts of France, and the Netherlands we’ll they’re currently at four per cent and they’re hoping to achieve twenty per cent in good status by 2015.
CG: How big a problem is pollution from farms because there have been changes in the way that farmers manage the land to reduce water course pollution, have those things been working?
GB: Well we’re certainly seeing huge improvements in certain aspects. It can work but it does depend on many, many hundreds and hundreds of individuals managing to the standards required; not having accidents and ensuring that they store and dispose of their waste properly.
CG: Should there be more stringent legislation making the farmers not pollute the land?
GB: Well there’s a point at which legislation doesn’t have the desired impact, I know that sounds odd being a regulator but we’re actually looking to work with local communities and local people to win hearts and minds. We actually want people to care about their environment and care what they are doing in their commercial activities to water and that’s what the framework directive is definitely encouraging us to do and that’s consult local people and listen.