The Usk and Wye
Abstraction Group (UWAG)

The Review of Consents

This was the process linked to the Habitats Directive that aimed to amend any historic licences (including those related to abstraction) that were found to impact negatively on the 'sites' - in this case our two SAC rivers. In 2008, WUF tried get involved in the process to ensure that the 'Rivers' had the best deal. Initially, it was deemed that NGO involvement was inappropriate. However, when details of proposed licence changes were published, a group was set up including the two water companies, (Dwr Cymru & Severn Trent) along with the Canal and Rivers Trust and WUF. This group was to explore the optimum solution that would ensure the best environment for the rivers and their migratory fish species, keep the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal open as much as possible and with the least impact on supplies for the water companies.

Agricultural abstraction in the Wye catchment  is there enough control?

Regulation relating to licence changes cover two scenarios: voluntary changes and those enforced with compensation. Clearly for the optimum public benefit a voluntary change would be quicker and more cost effective. The Group’s efforts included investigations and data collecting but the crucial work was creating models that would examine and explain the effects of any proposed changes. WUF played a very important part here. Our consultant, John Lawson was able to rationalise the differing approaches taken by the group’s partners. A salmon migration model was also agreed and the upshot of several years’ work was a plan agreed with the statutory bodies that would minimise the impact on water companies, would keep the canal open in all but the worst drought years and would restore a much more favourable flow regimen for our migratory fish species.

It is stressed that the work by UWAG applies to the licence belonging to the water companies and Canal and Rivers Trust. While there has been some hands off flow changes introduced for the River Lugg system, we remain unconvinced that there are sufficient controls in place for the Wye's agricultural abstraction.

Improvements to River Flows starting in 2015

In the Issues section we highlight the problems that over-abstraction has caused on the Wye and Usk. Big improvements in the flows of both rivers will start in 2015. These have been driven by the EU Habitats Directive and WUF has played a major part in securing agreement for fish-friendly licence changes and reservoir operating rules as described above. The key to the improvements has been WUF's proposal to make better use of the reservoirs to boost flows at times that are important for fish migration, while still allowing water supplies to be maintained.

Improvements for the Wye

Improvements for the Usk