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A brighter future for Welsh rivers - Wildlife Trusts Wales

Wildlife Trusts Wales welcomes the announcement of robust protection for our rivers and its wildlife

After many years of campaigning Wildlife Trusts Wales welcomes the Welsh Government announcement today of the introduction of the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

Our rivers in Wales have suffered from serious water pollution incidences caused by a minority of farmers in Wales. Wildlife Trusts Wales welcomes the announcement today to tighten regulation to stop bad practice which causes catastrophic damage to wildlife. For too long the farming industry has relied on voluntary measures that simply haven’t deterred the worst offenders. We acknowledge that the majority of farmers do protect watercourses. These new regulations should enable a level playing field for all farmers in Wales.

Iolo Williams, BBC presenter and naturalist said: “This is great news for Welsh rivers and is long overdue. I wholeheartedly support any measures that will help improve the quality of Welsh rivers for wildlife and for people.”

The main cause of the pollution is leaching or at times deliberate disposal of slurry (animal waste) into rivers. Slurry is a strong pollutant which removed oxygen from the water, killing fish and other wildlife such as aquatic insects. This can leave large stretches of rivers and streams devoid of life including some of Wales’ most iconic rivers such as the Wye and Teifi. It can take decades for rivers to recover following an incident.

The new rules put agricultural best practice into legislation. This includes preventing farms in Wales from spreading slurry on their fields from mid-October to the start of February. This lessens the chance of it being washed into our rivers and streams and wreaking havoc on wildlife.

Welsh Government have previously described the number of agricultural pollution incidents in Wales as an "embarrassment" for the country. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) stated that most of Wales major rivers are suffering from significant water pollution. It warned that time was running out to "avoid a catastrophic situation for Wales".

Water pollution affects everyone in Wales. It is the public who pays for the clean-up through our water bills, as water companies spend millions of pounds removing agricultural pollution from our water.

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