Small changes can make big improvements in water quality

A North Wales farming couple say they are glad to be making a difference, having joined a scheme to improve a river’s water quality.

Over the last year, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) staff visited some 200 farms in the lower Clwyd area, providing advice on how best to protect the river from agricultural pollution which can harm river life and affect Rhyl beach.  

Gareth and Lowri Evans’ farm is one of nine along the river Clwyd that took up the offer of help from NRW to prevent cattle from reaching the river and polluting it.   

So far, some 2000 metres (a mile and a quarter) of the river have been fenced off and troughs provided to supply alternative drinking water for cattle. Overall, river access has been restricted for up to 500 cattle.

Lowri Evans, of Bron Haul Farm in Henllan said:

“We, as Welsh farmers, fully appreciate that we have a responsibility to help improve water quality. And, although this is a small project, we hope it will make a difference overall.”

Bethan Beech, NRW Team Leader for Denbighshire said:

“There is a lot more to do. But this project shows that small changes in farm practices can make a big difference to water quality in nearby streams, rivers and coastal waters.
“North Wales benefits from a stunning environment and our coastline is enjoyed by thousands of local people and visitors.
“In recent years, we’ve also focussed on the sewage drainage infrastructure in the lower Clwyd, including Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s assets, private dischargers and urban drainage in an attempt to mitigate pollution incidents in all sectors.
“By making lots of small, individual improvements I hope we can enjoy cleaner rivers and bathing waters.”

The schemes have wider environmental benefits too – less cattle in rivers will mean less disturbance to the riverbed and riverbanks which is good news for wildlife.

This is just the beginning. NRW is now working with the Clwyd, Conwy and Gwynedd Rivers Trust carrying out similar work in the lower Clwyd, funded by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water.

Gail Davies, Environment Programme Manager for Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, said:

“We are very pleased to be supporting a partnership project in the lower Clwyd whilst we continue investigations on our own assets.”

The initiative is supported by the Farming Unions in Wales: 

Mr Tudur Parry, FUW Land Use Committee Chairman and representative on the Wales Land Management Forum, said:

“I know that the FUW have been collaborating with other stakeholders in the sub-group on agriculture pollution of the Wales Land Management Forum, to explore ways of mitigating point-source and diffuse pollution. 
“No farmer wants to pollute surface or ground waters and we will continue to explore ways to enhance water quality in Clwyd and across Wales.”
Paul Williams, Clwyd County Chairman of NFU Cymru, said: ‘‘Farmers take their environment responsibilities seriously and we are pleased to work with the partnership of organisations to support farmers to take action to improve water quality where this is needed.’’

Other projects are underway by members of the Wales Land Management Forum too. 

For instance NRW is working with Farming Connect to give more support and guidance to help advise farmers and contractors, especially in targeted water bodies identified by sampling as high priority.

Farming Connect is holding Sustainable Farming events over the coming weeks to help identify improvements, offer practical advice and find simple, cost effective solutions to problems with storing slurry and manure. More on their website