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Foundation Steps Up Its Phosphate Monitoring

Friday 18th September, 2020

Following the severe algal blooms on the Wye earlier in the summer, the Foundation will be stepping up its phosphate monitoring from this autumn onwards in two critical areas of the catchment.

Currently we possess only one piece of monitoring equipment (sonde) that can effectively test for phosphate levels in rivers. Up to now it had been located in the Arrow catchment to measure the effects of one of our projects there.

The Ithon (pictured) and the Frome are the two rivers in the Wye catchment which the Foundation will test frequently for phosphate levels.However, we will very shortly be moving the sonde to the Ithon, the river in which the Wye’s algal blooms now originate. It will give us accurate and, crucially, regular readings of the phosphate levels in the river (every ten minutes), in contrast to the current sporadic and infrequent sampling being undertaken by Natural Resources Wales. To save time and money we had hoped to install the equipment at one of their Ithon gauging stations but, unfortunately, that was not possible.

The question may be asked why we have not purchased and installed more of these sondes in the past. The answer is that they are complex pieces of equipment and at around £40k each, are very expensive for a small charity such as ours.

The other good news is that the Environment Agency have kindly agreed to fund the purchase of a second sonde for the Foundation, which we will use to assess the amount of phosphate entering the lower Lugg via the Frome.

The Frome has been long suspected as a major source of phosphate for the Wye. The results will tell us which sectors are contributing and when, allowing to focus our efforts appropriately to restore the water quality of this sub-catchment.

Data is power and we are currently operating in a data vacuum. We look forward to bringing you the findings from these two sondes over the coming months.

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