New Project Planned To Reverse The Decline of the River Wye

Wednesday 25th May, 2022

The Foundation, in partnership with the Rivers Trust and fourteen Herefordshire landowners have this week submitted an ambitious bid to Defra’s Landscape Recovery scheme to help resolve water quality issues in the river Wye.

The recent decline of the ecology of the highly protected river Wye has been dramatic. High levels of nutrients entering the river, including phosphorus, have been combining with low water levels to cause increasingly severe algal blooms in the spring and summer months. High phosphorus levels have also resulted in moratoriums on construction and housing development in the Lugg catchment, with significant impact on Herefordshire’s economy.

The objective of this project is to reduce significantly the amount of phosphorus entering rivers from agricultural sources over the next twenty years. The proposal includes an initial 11 square kilometres (1,100 hectares) of Herefordshire farmland and if successful, coverage will be expanded to a far higher proportion of the catchment. The scheme proposes measures to drastically reduce soil and chemicals washing off the land, create wetlands to soak up nutrients flowing out of drains and support changes to agricultural practices to reduce the levels of phosphorus stored in Herefordshire soils.


Ranunculus is a plant that is crucial to the Wye’s ecology. It has declined dramatically in recent years, its regrowth hindered by the rivers increasingly severe algal blooms.

The project will work alongside other efforts to resolve the Wye’s water quality problems, including those of companies within the food supply chain and Dwr Cymru improving its infrastructure at sewage treatment works.

Kate Speke-Adams, Head of Land Use for the Wye & Usk Foundation explained: “Existing regulations and voluntary schemes do not fully address the complicated issues in the Wye and our project is designed to fill that gap. We want a Landscape Recovery scheme to deliver a combination of measures to improve the fortunes of our river. If successful, the scheme will not just improve water quality, it will secure multiple other benefits: the risk of flooding will reduce; biodiversity will improve and more carbon will be stored in the soils.”

Martin Williams, who farms on the banks of the Wye, said: “The bid is a golden opportunity for farmers in the catchment. If agriculture is 70% of the problem this project is a huge step towards us being 70% of the solution.”

DEFRA are expected to announce the successful bids by early June.

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