More watery sites join 'at risk' list

Government has added 24 streams, rivers and estuaries to its list of waterways that are threatened by pollution - and require more attention from the companies that run treatment plants which discharge into them.

Environment Minister Phil Woolas announced the list of official Sensitive Areas that are at risk from eutrophication - the process whereby water is starved of oxygen due to the decomposition of large amounts of organic matter.

The problem comes from an excess of nutrients in drain water - particularly nitrogen and phosphorous - which cause algae and plants to grow much quicker and upset the balance, chocking out other organisms including fish.

Agricultural fertilisers are the main source of these chemicals though a small but significant proportion have their origins in households.

By designating sensitive areas, Government is putting a legal requirement on the operators of the sewage treatment works along these waterways - around 140 of them - to cut levels of nitrate and phosphate pollution.

"Taking this action will not only protect our water environment, its aquatic life, and the wildlife that depends on it. It will also bring considerable benefits for everyone who values our waterways and the complex ecosystems around them," said Mr Woolas.

"This is not just about meeting our obligations to improve water quality, but doing what we think is right for the environment and for quality of life.

"There will be water bill implications for customers from 2014, ranging from less than a pound to around £7 a year. We always consider very carefully when householders' bills are likely to be affected, but these increases are small and I hope consumers will consider the benefits to be more than worth the investment."

The new and extended areas equate to about 749 km of rivers and canals and 30 sq km of standing fresh and estuarine water bodies across England.

Today's announcement brings the total number of Sensitive Areas in England to 367, covering over 4,500km of rivers and canals, and about 1,600 sq km of lakes, estuaries and shoreline.

The areas which officially became sensitive this week are:

  • Badsey Brook
  • Gilwiskaw Brook and River Mease
  • Rea Brook
  • River Itchen
  • River Strine/Strine Brook
  • River Swift and Oxford Canal
  • River Salwarpe
  • River Stour & Smestow Brook
  • River Tern
  • River Trent

  • Little Stour
  • Bewl Reservoir
  • Darwell Reservoir
  • River Rother West
  • River Hamble
  • Hamble Estuary
  • Newtown Harbour
  • Medina Estuary
  • Waldron Ghyll and River Cuckmere

    South West
  • River Yeo
  • River Brue and River Sheppey and River Alham tributaries

    North West
  • Glaze Brook
  • River Dane
  • River Tame

    Sam Bond

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