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  • by Trevor Loveday

Funding poised to probe pollution impact on rivers

Defra has unveiled a government-funded programme to investigate the impact of pollution on UK rivers.

With funding totalling £8.4m from the Natural Environment Research Council and Defra, studies under the Understanding changes in quality of UK Freshwaters programme will investigate:

  • how pollutants enter, leave and interact with rivers and supporting ecosystems;

  • how the movement of pollutants will be modified with changes in the water cycle; and

  • better monitoring and measurement of pollution.

The projects comprise:

  • a study of concentrations of how various chemicals vary in freshwaters, using nine field catchments in Yorkshire (Rivers Aire, Calder, Derwent, Don, Nidd, Ouse, Swale, Ure and Wharfe);

  • an investigation into how climate change impacts water quality of rivers;

  • determinations of how freshwater pollutants affect aquatic invertebrates and plants at Thames and Bristol Avon field sites;

  • a study of effluent and mitigation practices in livestock farming and impact on UK water quality at sites in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and north and west England; and

  • research into interactions between changes in climate and land use, and emergent contaminants in rivers.

The government’s umbrella organisation: UK Research and Innovation said “Freshwater ecosystems are facing multiple pressures from a cocktail of pollutants, including chemicals, microplastics, pharmaceuticals, invasive species and land management practices. As a result, the majority of UK rivers fail to have good ecological status, with only 14% of waterways in England, 46% in Wales, 50% in Scotland and 31% in Northern Ireland reaching the threshold.


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