WFD opportunity ‘must not be missed’

Drawing up plans to meet EU water regulations offers the best opportunity to reform water and wetland management for decades, according to the head of one of the UK's biggest wildlife charities.

Graham Wynne, chief executive of the RSPB, said the opportunities presented by the River Basin Management Plans, which are being drawn up as part of the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive, should not be missed.

He warned that the current versions of the plans are only expected to bring a further 5% of river length into the ‘acceptable’ water quality standard.

Speaking at the World Wetlands Day conference, in London, Mr Wynne said: “Something has gone extraordinarily wrong.

“How can so many people have slaved for so long and done such good analysis to have produced an outcome that brings about a 5% increase in the amount of river length meeting acceptable standards?”

He urged businesses, organisations and agencies working in the water sector needed to work harder to build cross-party political support for their aims, to lobby their local MPs as constituents, and to show their passion for protecting water quality, wetlands and wildlife.

“I think we have got to be prepared to be more values-led,” he said. “I think we have got to show the emotion that brings us to care about the natural world and wildlife.”

He added that the public also needed to be more involved in understanding the importance of wetlands, and be encouraged to value their local water courses.

Amanda Craig, from Natural England, told the conference that PR09 – the period review process that will set water company price limits for 2010 to 2015 – should be changed to make it easier for water companies to invest in conservation projects.

“Every bit of water company expenditure must be justified by cost benefit analysis. It must be related to the nature of their business and it must be related to customer priorities,” she said.

“If we had a bit of flexibility about that, that would certainly affect things.”

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie