Are rivers really at their best for over a century?

Pond Conservation responds to the widely repeated news that rivers are at their best for a century. See here, here, here and here. You can see the original press release here.

“It’s always pleasant to read good-news stories at the year’s end. Unfortunately today’s tale from the Environment Agency that our rivers are “at their healthiest for over a century” isn’t one of them.

The Agency has picked out a few charismatic river species (salmon, water vole, otter), selectively reported the truth about them, and ignored the bad news about water quality.

Although salmon have returned to the formerly filthy Tyne and Mersey, the Environment Agency’s own data show that across England and Wales the overall trend in salmon numbers has been downward since the late 1980s. Numbers in 2009 are the lowest on record.

Across the river system as a whole Government statisticians describe the Environment Agency’s results as showing ‘little change’ in river biological quality in recent years. And that’s ‘little change’ from a very low base. Agency data show that 75% of our rivers do not even reach ‘good’ standard. Just a single lowland river is classified as ‘high’ quality and essentially undamaged. If you pour a bucket of rainwater into a barrel of sewage you can call it ‘cleaner’ but you wouldn’t want to drink the result.

Many of the Agency’s staff are highly dedicated and do sterling work to protect the environment, but for their public relations team to present such a distorted view of the degraded state of our freshwaters is both shaming and dangerously complacent.”


3 Responses to “Are rivers really at their best for over a century?”

  1. Survived Christmas now the good news stories come in « Cranfield's wildlife Blog Says:

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  2. Lynn Bay Says:

    Unfortunately the reports in the United States are just as biased! I think it depends on what the government wants us to know. The reporting by all government entities is suspect to me since our fight over the “spotted owl” habitat. There were several spotted owls living in areas that were not what the government described as old growth timber, such as an airport hanger. So I think twice about what they say and then investigate on my own! Good luck with getting your rivers cleaner. As we clean up pollution it benefits the whole planet!

  3. Neil Says:

    Politics/PR and science are never a good mix. Depressing that 3/4 of our rivers are just ok or below. I guess my optimistic hopes that the orange spotted emerald dragonfly will be the next odonate to (re)appear in the UK are a way off….

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