Economical with the actualité

Looking round the web at the Arctic Charr story in Wales featured in the previous post, I came across this article noting how the anglers lobby group Fish Legal was calling the Environment Agency’s work to protect Llyn Padarn, the home of the charr, ‘inadequate’.

But what struck me as more worrying was the Environment Agency for Wales Director reaching for the all purpose quote that the water quality of rivers and lakes had “improved dramatically” over the last 20 years.

This is not to decry the work of the Agency which obviously does much good. But really Chris Mills, or perhaps his press team, who I suspect actually write this stuff, ought to take a closer look at the water quality statistics for Wales. You can see a summary here, but the detailed breakdown on which my comments are based is not so easy to track down now, and appears no longer to be in the public domain.

They show that, in terms of biological quality, which is what we’re all really interested in, the length of rivers in Wales reaching Grade B, called ‘good’ by the Environment Agency, increased by 10% between 1990 and 2009: from 42.0 to 52.5% of the river length. Encouraging but obviously not dramatic.

But worryingly, the length of river which is Grade A, ‘high’ biological quality, has actually declined in Wales over the last 20 years: from 37.7% to 34.6% of the river length.

In fact what’s happened is that the length of very cruddy industrially polluted rivers – in the bottom three Grades D, E and F, which made up about 7% of the monitored length in 1990 – has gone down almost to zero, and the best rivers have declined too.

Dramatic perhaps in the polluted suburbs of Cardiff – but not so good elsewhere.

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