The government has announced its determination to achieve a more locally-driven, more effective, and better joined-up, approach to managing Britain’s rivers from source to sea – seeing this as the only way that we can meet the tough challenges of getting our waterways into good ecological condition and meeting the targets set by the Water Framework Directive.
It wants to see every river catchment co-ordinated and led by a local partnership of organisations, to get local community involvement and best use of funding and effort. The theme was picked up by this year’s national Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Conference held in Suffolk, where over 20 speakers approached the subject of river catchment management from every angle.
Here in South Devon, our five estuaries are a defining feature of what makes our AONB special, and we at the AONB Office have been running a range of estuary partnerships, plans, projects and activities for 20 years. The condition of our waters is critical not just to our fantastic wildlife, but also to us - we need clean water to drink, to swim in, to grow the seafood and shellfish we eat – and these rivers are the way we get rid of all the waste that goes down our plugholes!
There is a lot of good work going on in our river catchments involving many organisations, but we are all still putting our water environment under huge pressure. From all the things we put in (dishwater detergents, sewage waste, fertilisers, pesticides, oil, soil run-off, etc) and from all the things we take out.
We have seen extremes of low flows and flash flooding over the last year – and invasive foreign plants like Himalayan balsam are working their way down many river banks. Many of these issues start well up-river, outside the AONB Boundary, so tackling them means taking a broader view and working on a bigger scale.
Here at the AONB office we need to raise our game in safeguarding the water environment and over the coming weeks we will be exploring with our AONB partner organisations the best arrangements for whole-catchment river management to benefit our area.
For more information – Robin Toogood, AONB Manager, 01803 861142