To reduce pollution in watercourses to achieve Water Framework Directive status of ‘Good’ across the catchment where technically feasible. To raise standards of private domestic waste storage management thereby reducing risk of diffuse pollution. To improve the riparian habitat, ensure good fish passage and enable connectivity between flood plain and the river system.To increase the water holding capacity of the catchment and reduce flood peak further downstream.
Why is this important
Nearly 40% of rivers within the catchment are failing to meet European Water Framework Directive targets due to factors including increased sedimentation, deforestation, and pollution from historic metal mines, moorland and agricultural runoff.
The nutrient contribution from off-mains sewage to groundwater and the river network is unknown. Wensleydale has a dispersed rural population, with many dwellings reliant on septic tanks and cess pits for management and treatment of their waste.
Lack of bankside vegetation resulting in low habitat diversity, increased risk of erosion and high water temperatures, which can be damaging to fish and contribute to algal blooms.
The main river and some of its tributaries have been separated from the floodplain by historic embankments, particularly in the lower reaches. This prevents the river from behaving naturally and can exacerbate flooding lower down the catchment.
What are the specific problems
There is a disparity between anecdotal evidence of water quality within the upper Ure catchment and scientific evidence. Raised levels of ammonia and phosphorus and low levels of dissolved oxygen have been recorded in addition to algal blooms. Seasonal increases in population due to tourism could be putting pressure on sewage treatment works. Anglers have long argued that the fish stocks are poor; recent observations suggest catches have dropped further. There are concerns that changes in roadside verge management encourages erosion of soil which can increase the sedimentation risk in some waterbodies.
Sediment loss and contaminated water from historic lead mines is increasing, leading to high levels of toxic cadmium, lead and zinc in a number of tributaries.
High water temperatures have been recorded (over 21°C in 2015), which together with low flows and low levels of dissolved oxygen have contributed to fish kills.
Compaction on the upper slopes leads to increased surface water flows, and risk of sedimentation into the water courses..
What are we going to do?
Increase local community engagement and understanding of rivers through the development of a Citizen Science project focussed on water quality monitoring.
Seek solutions to metal mine pollution on becks not targeted by the Environment Agency and Coal Authority’s Abandoned Metal Mines Project.
Develop a holistic monitoring strategy and action plan in partnership with key organisations and Universities, to better understand the reasons behind algal blooms and fish population crashes.
Set up a “where does my water go?” project to raise public awareness of water quality and flood issues, including identifying every landowner/household with an off-mains sewerage system and providing them with appropriate advice.
Investigate the potential for developing a Natural Flood Management project within the catchment which will help reduce local flood problems and contribute to reducing downstream flooding.
Through the Planning system, encourage landowners and households to incorporate