Horror Show: 2
Abstraction

Low flows affect all species in our rivers but especially migratory species such as Atlantic salmon, shad and lampreys.

In 2014, the Foundation successfully negotiated a new abstraction regime for the Wye and Usk (see here for details) with the water companies and the Canal and Rivers Trust. This year (2015), owners at the top of the Wye have been delighted to find enough water in their section during the drought period. Downstream of Hereford, it's a very different story: islands of gravel appearing; hot, low flows; salmon confined to the estuary and the odd dead one seen floating downstream. Owners on the lower Wye have reported the lowest levels they've experienced in decades.

Where has it all gone?

The answer? Trickle Irrigation taking water when there would have been restrictions on any licenced abstraction (just a few examples taken this year from the Wye are shown above).

Because Trickle Irrigation is allowed anywhere, at any time and is not included in the licencing system, it was not considered in the recent Review of Consents process. There is little doubt that flows in 2014 and 2015 would fail the requirements of the Habitats Directive as a consequence.

However, Defra have been promising to bring this type of abstraction within the licencing process since 2003. In 2015, we received a reply from George Eustice MP, Minister for Environment and Fisheries at Defra. He has promised to bring trickle irrigation within the licencing system in 2016. But the problems don't end there. Who will have to give up taking water? Will there be compensation to pay and, crucially, how many more decades will it take to sort out?

Letter from WUF to Defra, July 2015

Response from George Eustice MP, Minister for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs, August 2015