Over many years the quality of our waters – both around our coastline and inland – has been declining. This has often made news headlines. According to data that was presented to the high court, it’s reckoned that water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers and seas via their storm overflows more than 300,000 times in 2022.
There is also a problem with pollutants running off agricultural land, which, together with the sewage, not only presents a danger to wild swimmers and children playing in streams, but is a serious threat to wildlife.
Whilst it is true that nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus are necessary for plant growth, in some areas, including the Somerset Levels, these are too high. This results in excessive weed and algae growing which damages aquatic life.
So, while it does seem that we are finally waking up to the water quality problem and despite the government doubling its funding to support farmers in reducing water and air pollution from their land, this nowhere near enough.
Water Authorities have been paying huge sums in bonuses to the people in charge of protecting and enhancing the environment, as well as big dividends to their shareholders. All this while sewerage was being discharged into the rivers and the sea.
So what can we do? Becoming a Water Guardian (WG) is an interesting, useful and often fun way of helping. WGs are volunteers who regularly walk sections of water courses near to them about once a month. They can note any wildlife they see, remove litter, check the water quality (details below), and report any issues. It is hoped that volunteers can give approximately two hours a month for a minimum of twelve months. The day and time is flexible to suit the volunteer.
Within this group, there are several subsections and talks are sometimes given on subjects including beavers, water guardianship and even aquaponics – in fact, anything to do with water, rivers or ponds.