In recent years the Foundation has taken the lead in securing a change in the way water is taken from the Wye and Usk that benefits both the rivers and those who need the water.

The need for change

The long term trend in water demand for river water has been upwards, predominantly for drinking and agricultural purposes. Following the introduction of the EU’s Habitats Directive in 1994, it was found that both rivers suffered from excessive abstraction.

Too much water being taken is bad news for ecology, especially for those rivers with migratory fish such as Wye and Usk. Salmon, for instance, are lost for good if they are held up at the estuary, unwilling to migrate into a river during low flows. Research by David Solomon for the Environment Agency showed that if salmon were held back for over 15 days, up to 3% perished each day.

To avoid significant ecological damage, a robust policy regarding how and when water is abstracted needed to be instigated and then enforced.

A solution that benefits all

Work by the Usk and Wye Abstraction Group (UWAG) found that very nearly all the demand for water could be met from the existing river flows and network of reservoirs without breaching the tough rules imposed by the Habitats Directive. 

A programme that makes better use of the existing reservoirs both catchments is now in force.

The changes will enable the water companies and CRT to continue with their responsibilities. The changes will also dramatically help in getting all migratory fish up river (especially salmon). Meanwhile, the more stable flows will help resident trout, grayling and coarse fish.

The EU Habitats Directive and the work of UWAG.


The Foundation is indebted to John Lawson, our water resources consultant  and also to Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water, the Beacons Trust and the Canal and Rivers Trust for supporting this aspect of the Foundation’s work.