Fourth river pollution summit focusses on conservation and innovation to protect Wales’s Special Area of Conservation rivers

I’ve had the immense pleasure of hosting the fourth river pollution summit on behalf of our First Minister Mark Drakeford and Minister for Climate Change Julie James.

These events have been crucial in bringing together senior leaders from Government, regulators, academia, NGOs and industry to unlock the challenges and drive improvements to water quality in our Special Area of Conservation (SAC) rivers.

Recent summits have focussed largely on reducing phosphorus and relieving the pressures on phosphorus-sensitive SAC river catchments to support the delivery of sustainable and affordable housing.

Much progress has been made in this respect over the last six months.

Our work to review the permits of larger wastewater treatment works is assisting local planning authorities to make informed decisions about capacity for new developments.

This work is ongoing, and we aim to have placed new phosphorus limits on each of those permits by July.

We move our attention now to initiatives elsewhere, and I was pleased to be able to share an update about our Teifi Demonstrator Catchment project.

At the end of last month we held a Hackathon event with over 40 stakeholders, consisting of a series of workshops across two days.

Collaboration is at the heart of the Teifi Demonstrator Catchment Project, and it was fantastic to be able to bring people together to share their aspirations, ideas and visions for the project.

The wealth and breadth of expertise in the room was outstanding, as was the energy and enthusiasm.

Ideas and proposals were plentiful, and the second day focussed on narrowing down the suggestions to six themes which were pitched to the room. These included: -

  • Farmer led projects.
  • Data integration and visualisation.
  • Water quality awareness.
  • Collaborative long-term funding.
  • Rainfall/catchment management.
  • Behaviour change.

In terms of next steps, we will continue to develop the six themes into a programme of work while we further investigate potential funding sources.

Other items on the Summit’s agenda focussed on conservation work and the actions taking place on the ground to improve water quality and river habitat.

Progress from our ambitious Four Rivers for LIFE project was shared, which is undertaking large scale river restoration on the Teifi, Cleddau, Tywi and Usk.

The project is aiming to restore a total of 776km of river over four years, through a  variety of interventions including removing barriers to migratory fish, riparian fencing to reduce agricultural pollution and restoration of declining habitat such as wetlands.

Afonydd Cymru kindly shared an update of the important work being undertaken by the Rivers Trusts in Wales under the Welsh Government capital programme and their wider programme of work with partners.

The event rounded off with a constructive discussion themed around ‘How can we help nature deliver what it needs to do – and what are the barriers?’

The timing of today’s summit comes as Mr Drakeford steps down from his role as First Minister of Wales.

We thank the departing First Minister for his support in making the Welsh environment a priority, and for convening this series of invaluable summits.

We wish him all the best for the future and look forward to building upon the significant achievements already made within our SAC rivers with Wales’s next leader.

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