Consultation on invasive non-native species regulations: enforcement

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Defra want to know what you think about their proposals to introduce penalties to enforce the EU regulation on invasive non-native species. These penalties will apply to offences in England and Wales.

The EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation applies restrictions on invasive non-native species of most concern in Europe, including a ban on keeping and selling.

This consultation closes on 3 April 2018.


Draft Welsh National Marine Plan

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The Welsh government recently sought views on proposals for a Welsh National Marine Plan to guide the future use of Welsh seas. This is the first marine plan for Welsh seas. It covers the inshore and offshore marine plan areas for which Welsh Ministers are the marine planning authority. They explain – we are consulting on the draft Welsh National Marine Plan which:

  • introduces a framework to support sustainable decision-making for our seas
  • sets out our vision and strategic objectives
  • presents general policies (economic, environmental and social)
  • includes policies specific to the sectors that operate in our seas (aquaculture, aggregates, defence, etc).

See the Consultation document here

Source of information:


Consultation to give communities more say in how rivers are managed

(Posted 29 March 2018)

A consultation which aims to give communities and local organisations more say in the ways in which rivers are managed and maintained, was held recently.

The Environment Agency is considering proposals to transfer ‘flood risk management activities’ on a number of stretches of watercourses to internal drainage boards (IDBs), lead local flood authorities (LLFAs) and district councils. This will only happen where the watercourses have a low level of flood risk, are not associated with major rivers or major city centres and where the local community supports the change. A transfer would mean that IDBs, LLFAs and district councils can take on more responsibility for their local flood risk, where appropriate, by carrying out activities such as maintenance or giving permission to carry out works.

For the Environment Agency, the project will also ensure resources are prioritised where the greatest impact on reducing flood risk can be achieved.

Read more here


New proposed measures announced ahead of salmon consultation

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The Environment Agency is proposing new measures to protect salmon stocks across England and in the Border Esk, which are currently among the lowest on record.

The 2015 national salmon stock assessment indicated that salmon stocks in many rivers across England had failed to meet their minimum safe levels. The 2016 assessment showed this trend continued and the new measures proposed are based on this assessment. The proposals come after an initial EA consultation last year to understand how the better management of salmon fishing in England and the Border Esk can reduce the impact on salmon numbers. The responses to that consultation helped inform these proposals and build an understanding of the likely impacts for managing salmon fishing in the future.

Read about the proposed measures to protect salmon stocks in England fisheries and in the Border Esk, and the Environment Agency’s larger programme, the ‘Salmon Five Point Approach’, here


Tackling the plastic problem

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This call for evidence will explore how changes to the tax system or charges could be used to reduce the amount of single-use plastics we waste by reducing unnecessary production, increasing reuse, and improving recycling. The government would also like to explore how we can also drive innovation in this area to achieve the same outcomes.

The government will consider all options for using the tax system to address single-use plastic waste and to drive innovation, and will use the evidence gathered from this call to inform that process. The government wants to look broadly across the whole supply chain, from production and retail to consumption and disposal, in order to gain the best possible understanding of the whole landscape before deciding on the best course of action.

The consultation closes on 18 May 2018.


Environment Secretary announces plans to consult on a new, independent body for environmental standards

(Posted 18 January 2018)

Plans to consult on a new, independent body that would hold government to account for upholding environmental standards in England after we leave the European Union have now been set out.

Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to put the environment at the heart of policy making, while ensuring vital protections for our landscapes, wildlife and natural assets are not only maintained but enhanced. To help deliver a Green Brexit, ministers will consult on a new independent, statutory body to advise and challenge government and potentially other public bodies on environmental legislation – stepping in when needed to hold these bodies to account and enforce standards.

A consultation on the specific powers and scope of the new body will be launched early next year.

One of the key questions, which will be explored with the devolved administrations, is whether Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland wish to take a different or similar approach.

Read more here



Persistent Organic Pollutants – draft Stockholm Convention UK implementation plan 2017

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This consultation was seeking views on the 2017 updated UK implementation plan for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Defra wanted to know what you think about the proposed new actions in their updated national implementation plan. This plan sets out the progress made since 2013 in reducing Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). It also proposes new actions for improving progress and implementing the requirements for new POPs that have been added. This implementation plan sets out how the UK is meeting its commitment for the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. This global treaty protects human health and the environment from Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Click here to see the summary of responses. The updated National Implementation Plan has been published.

Source of information:



New funding scheme to improve lakes and rivers in England

(Posted 29 March 2018)

A new £27 million scheme to improve the water environment across England was jointly launched in March by Defra, Natural England and the Environment Agency.

The Water Environment Grant (WEG) scheme, which is part of the Rural Development Programme for England, will provide £9 million each year over the next three years to applicants applying for funding to restore local ecosystems and deliver substantial benefits to people and the environment. Potential projects could include river restoration activities, removal of obstacles to help fish moving along rivers and streams or actions to improve the water quality.

The scheme, funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, will award grants to non-profit ventures with greater support for projects which enhance water eco-systems.

WEG applications have to be submitted by 11 May 2018. Grants will be determined by the Environment Agency and Natural England and funding will be awarded in August 2018. Successful applicants will be expected to start their projects before March 2019, with completion dates of March 2021.


Bags of Help for local projects

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Community groups across the UK are being invited to apply for Tesco ‘Bags of Help’ funding to bag some cash for their local project. ‘Bags of Help’ is Tesco’s local community grant scheme where the money raised by the sale of carrier bags is being used to fund thousands of local projects in communities right across the UK. Projects that bring benefit to their community will get the green light – these range from improving community buildings and outdoor spaces to buying new equipment, training coaches or volunteers and hosting community events.

Administration of the local funding is being managed by the community charity, Groundwork, which specialises in transforming communities and the local environment for the better.

Tesco customers will have the opportunity to vote for local projects every two months in Tesco stores up and down the UK – with £4,000, £2,000 and £1,000 up for grabs.


Marine planning: issues and evidence database

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The Issues Database has been produced following public consultation (summer 2016) to gather issues and supporting evidence for the north east, north west, south east and south west marine plan areas. An issue is an opportunity or challenge to the marine plan area which is likely to drive or be affected by change, and that can be addressed, at least in part, by marine planning. Evidence includes social, economic or environmental data, academic research, government policy and expert opinion.

The Issues Database includes:

  • overview of each issue
  • issue category (economic, environmental, social and economic)
  • details of supporting evidence gathered
  • which marine plan area the issue relates to.


Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan – ambitions for the marine area

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The Environment Plan sets out how, over 25 years, we will secure clean, healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans.

Marine aspects of the plan:

The document describes plans for the marine environment and has a chapter dedicated to our oceans. Themes mentioned in the plan include:

  • Ocean acidification
  • Coral reef protection and management – particularly in Overseas Territories
  • Investment in mangroves and natural capital overseas
  • Continuing to work with others under OSPAR
  • Commonwealth Blue Charter
  • Easing impact of human activity on fish stocks and seabed habitats
  • The natural capital approach and understanding the value of the marine environment.

The plan sets out some commitments for the marine area, including:

Introducing a sustainable fisheries policy as we leave the Common Fisheries Policy; achieving good environmental status in our seas while allowing marine industries to thrive; the Blue Belt programme.

Read more here


Environment Agency announces £750,000 to tackle single-use plastics

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The EA has announced £750,000 for a new, dedicated team to tackle plastics pollution in the South West of England. The pioneer project will see the creation of a new Plastics and Sustainability team across Devon and Cornwall working with businesses, local councils, charities and community action groups, such as the Bude Cleaner Seas Project.

The team will aim to reduce the amount of plastic pollution across land, rivers and the coastline. It will promote better environmental practices across industry, including a reduction in plastic waste from manufacturing, along with community campaigns to clean up pollution locally.

Ambitions for the project include:

  • A reduction of plastics reaching land, waterways and shorelines.
  • Promotion of better environmental practices in business and a reduction in plastic waste from the start of the manufacturing process.
  • Increased local engagement to change public behaviour and encourage more community action to tackle pollution.
  • Monitoring and research into ways plastics enter and affect the environment, supporting leading academics in the South West.

Read more here


British freshwaters are heavily contaminated with neonicotinoids

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The first analysis of new monitoring data reveals that British freshwaters are heavily contaminated with neonicotinoids.  Half of the sites monitored in England exceed chronic pollution limits and two rivers are acutely polluted.

The River Waveney on the Norfolk/Suffolk Border was the worst polluted river with the acute harm level exceeded for a whole month and the River Wensum in Norfolk was also chronically polluted.  These rivers supply the Broads, an internationally important wetland site and home to many endangered aquatic animals. Sugar beet fields are the most likely source of pollution in these rivers.

Aquatic insects are just as vulnerable to neonicotinoid insecticides as bees and flying insects, yet have not received the same attention because the UK government has not responded to calls to introduce systematic monitoring. However, under the EU Water Framework Directive ‘Watch List’ initiative the UK was required to introduce a pilot monitoring scheme for all five commonly used neonicotinoids. Twenty-three sites were sampled in 2016. A total of 88% of these were contaminated with neonicotinoids, eight rivers in England exceeded recommended chronic pollution limits, and two were acutely polluted.  Populations of mayflies and other insects in these rivers are likely to be heavily impacted, with implications for fish and bird populations.

Read more here


World-leading microbeads ban takes effect

(Posted 29 March 2018)

A ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads came into force in January – a landmark step in the introduction of one of the world’s toughest bans on these harmful pieces of plastic. Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey has announced that manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care products will no longer be able to add tiny pieces of plastic known as ‘microbeads’ to rinse-off products such as face scrubs, toothpastes and shower gels.

These damaging beads can cause serious harm to marine life, but the UK’s ban – praised by campaigners as one of the toughest in the world – will help to stop billions of microbeads ending up in the ocean every year. A ban on the sale of products containing microbeads will follow later in the year.


Water abstraction plan 2017

(Posted 29 March 2018)

These documents set out what the government is doing to reform the management of water abstraction, to protect the environment and improve access to water. They summarise how Defra will work with abstractors to make these changes. The abstraction plan document summarises all the changes Defra plan to make. It should be read alongside the more detailed documents covering environment, catchment focus and abstraction licensing service.

Read more here


Graham’s story: how a community took control

(Posted 29 March 2018)

NEF (New Economics Foundation) has been working with an Eastbourne fishing community to build a better coastal economy. Like so many small-scale fleets across the UK, fishers in Eastbourne have been squeezed to the point of extinction. That’s why four years ago, local fisherman Graham Doswell decided it was time for the people of Eastbourne to take control of their own future. With the help of NEF, he has led an effort to secure a sustainable future for the inshore fleet – and with it, a better future for the whole community.

NEF helps small-scale fishermen access the funding they need to transform their future by taking control of their own seafood supply chains. As part of NEFメs Blue New Deal for coastal communities, it was identified that access to funding was a barrier to a sustainable future for these inshore fishermen, so NEF offered to help to maintain and create jobs in the local fishing industry, and strengthen supply chains and the community that relies on them.

In October 2017 the maximum intervention possible as an EMFF (European Maritime and Fisheries Fund) grant had been awarded. £1 million was secured to build and kit-out a processing unit on the quayside where the fishers work, to give them control of their own fish sales and give them the ability to shape their own future, rather than relying on wholesalers and middle-men to provide the food they harvest from the sea.

Read more and watch Graham’s video here


Scotland planning to ban plastic cotton buds

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Scotland’s Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, has announced plans to introduce legislation to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds. The proposals will be put to public consultation and would position Scotland as the first country in the UK to legislate against these environmentally damaging items.

Plastic cotton buds are consistently listed in the top 10 items found by volunteers during MCS (Marine Conservation Society) beach cleans and litter surveys. MSC have provided years of data on cotton bud sticks to Scottish environmental charity Fidra, to help their Cotton Bud Project which encourages industry to promote biodegradable alternatives. Cotton bud sticks are often wrongly flushed down the toilet and, due to their structure, pass through the majority of sewage treatment works meaning they end up in the sea. They can be ingested by marine life, causing physical damage or starvation, and release dangerous chemicals either incorporated into the plastic itself or adsorbed from the environment.


Sector-changing public engagement projects launched

(Posted 29 March 2018)

NERC has awarded a total of £500,000 to six projects that will build consortia and capacity in public engagement with environmental research across the UK.

Public engagement has the power to make environmental research more relevant to society. In turn, environmental research has the potential to inform debates around the issues facing our society. These six projects will equip the environmental research sector to deliver effective, national-scale public engagement with contemporary issues of environmental science.

Starting this month, the projects will build consortia across 15 universities, three NERC research centres, and a diverse range of partner organisations. They will use a number of approaches, including audits, scoping, networking, and training. One of the six projects receiving funding is The Future of Our Seas, led by the Marine Biological Association; it will use the future of our seas as an example to create a template of how to build consortia, build capacity, and how to create innovative activities in public engagement.

Read about the other projects and more background here


OMREG – Online Marine Register

(Posted 29 March 2018)

A database of completed coastal habitat creation schemes and other adaptation projects. Recently upgraded website.


Scottish government proposes new protected areas for marine life, including whales and dolphins

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The Scottish government has announced that it is considering the creation of four new marine protected areas (MPAs) around its coastline, which will now go out for public consultation. Whilst whales and dolphins are ‘strictly protected’ in all Scottish waters, Scotland contains some areas where significant aggregations of both species occur and these areas are essential to important activities such as raising calves, feeding and breeding. Oversight of all activities in these areas will ensure that minke whales, Risso’s dolphins and other species that rely on these important habitats can thrive.

Read more here


River Clean-ups with the Marine Conservation Society

(Posted 29 March 2018)

MCS will be cleaning up river banks and recording the litter found for the first time, thanks to the support of one of the country’s leading supermarkets. MCS has been working with Waitrose since last summer on the ‘Waitrose Beach and River Clean-up’ series. So far, almost 700 beach cleans have taken place involving over 10,000 volunteers. Now, the charity is about to launch a series of 20 river cleans using a similar recording system it uses at its beach cleans. MCS will be joining forces with leading waterways charity Thames21 in a pilot project to investigate the link between river and marine litter.

Waitrose has donated £500,000 from its carrier bag funds to MCS, allowing the charity to undertake more clean-ups and mobilise larger numbers of volunteers than ever before. MCS says that recording the types of litter found in certain tributaries of the country’s most iconic river – the Thames – will give the charity a more complete picture of the source-to-sea journey of litter. The charity will be collating the data it collects from the 20 planned events and using it as a pilot study to look at comparisons with beach litter data. We already know that 80% of ocean plastic comes from landfill and enters the sea via our rivers.


Nature and environment charities questioned on 25 Year Plan for Environment

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The Environmental Audit Committee takes evidence on the government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment. The session focuses on the Plan as a whole, particularly the ambition, principles and implementation.

Click here for more information


Groundwater protection position statements

(Posted 29 March 2018)

These position statements describe the Environment Agency’s approach to managing and protecting groundwater. They update Groundwater protection: principles and practice (GP3).

This document helps anyone whose current or proposed activities have an impact on, or are affected by, groundwater, such as:

  •    Developers
  •    Planners
  •    Environmental permit applicants and holders
  •    Water abstractors.

Many of the approaches set out in the position statements are not statutory but may be included in, or referenced by, statutory guidance and legislation. Environment Agency staff use these position statements as a framework to make decisions on activities that could impact on groundwater. This clear approach aims to remove uncertainty and potentially inconsistent decision-making.

Read more here


Farming rules for water from April 2018

(Posted 29  March 2018)

This publication sets out the new ‘farming rules for water’ Defra will be introducing from 2 April 2018 for all farmers in England. They have published a simple overview factsheet, together with full details of the rules.

The rules will require good farming practice, so that farmers manage their land both to avoid water pollution and to benefit their business. They provide a step-by-step checklist to make sure that fertilisers are spread to meet crop and soil needs. Other rules safeguard water quality by requiring farmers to judge when it is best to apply fertilisers, where to store manures and how to avoid pollution from soil erosion.

Defra consulted on the proposed rules in 2015 and have published separately a summary of the responses they received.

See the overview here


The EA’s Strategic Monitoring Review Programme

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The Environment Agency are developing a new approach to gathering and using environmental information. Monitoring is an essential activity within the EA, underpinning work to improve the environment and protect people and places from flooding.

The EA has started a review of monitoring activities to transform how they will commission, plan and deliver monitoring (the Strategic Monitoring Review or SMR). Their aim is to derive even greater value from their investment in information collection and use, with a greater emphasis on catchment data needs, partnerships and engagement. Over the last 5 years monitoring in the EA has been the subject of a number of reviews, in response to legislation changes, growth in business requirements, exploiting new technology and an ongoing drive to increase efficiency. This has seen a renewed focus on making better use of data and the introduction of new technologies such as sample scheduling software, Electronic Field Logs and DNA based biological analytical methods.

The EA recognise that implementing a new approach will take time, and that they will need to put as much resource into developing new technical solutions as building relationships with people who share their passion for the environment. Work has already begun with Rivers Trusts, national stakeholders and catchment partners to develop a new approach, but other views are always welcome from groups who share the ambition to create a better place for people and the environment. To find out more please contact the Environment Agency at

Read more here


Catchment Data Explorer

(Posted 18 January 2018)

The Catchment Data Explorer helps you explore and download information about the water environment. It supports and builds upon the data in the river basin management plans. You can find catchments and water bodies of interest using a map or searching by name. You can also view summary information about catchments, and follow links to other useful sites.

The Explorer was updated in September 2017. This version supports a new API for access to the data together with a beta data downloader tool. The downloader allows you to select water bodies on a map or using your own GIS file, and download filtered data for your selection.



Plastic pollution: Scientists' plea on threat to ocean giants

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Scientists say there needs to be more research into the impact of plastic pollution on sharks, whales and rays. A study in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution says the creatures may be swallowing hundreds of tiny bits of plastic a day.

Microplastic pollution has the potential to further reduce the population sizes of the large filter feeders, yet there is very little research being carried out into the risks.

Researchers from the US, Australia and Italy looked at data on threats to large filter feeders from microplastics. The Gulf of Mexico, the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Coral Triangle are priorities for monitoring, according to a review of studies.

Read more here:


Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers

(Posted 29 March 2018)

AMBER stands for Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers. The AMBER project seeks to apply adaptive management to the operation of dams and barriers in European rivers to achieve a more efficient restoration of stream connectivity, and address impacts caused by river fragmentation.

What is AMBER about? Its aims are:

  • To create the first global assessment of stream connectivity across Europe which will serve to highlight the areas where restoration is most needed.
  • To make the first application of eDNA for river restoration, and provide an essential management tool for the prioritization of areas for conservation and barrier management.
  • To develop a comprehensive socio-economic and hydro-ecological framework for guiding the restoration of local river ecosystems and the ecological, genetic and analytical tools for its implementation.
  • To provide great opportunities for real time monitoring by turning citizens into stewards of the rivers’ natural capital using citizen science.


UN poised to move ahead with landmark treaty to protect high seas

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Waters outside national boundaries are currently unregulated, devastated by overfishing and pollution. But after more than five years of negotiations, UN members are poised to agree to draw up a new rulebook by 2020, which could establish conservation areas, catch quotas and scientific monitoring. 140 countries are backing the motion to establish a treaty.

The world’s oceans are set for a long overdue boost as the United Nations votes for the first time on a planned treaty to protect and regulate the high seas. The waters outside national maritime boundaries – which cover half of the planet’s surface – are currently a free-for-all that has led to overfishing and pollution.

Read more here



Are concentrations of certain critical metals and metalloids increasing in the environment due to their use in new technologies?

(Posted 29 March 2018)

A recent study has assessed the environmental impact of a group of technology-critical elements (TCEs) – niobium (Nb), tantalum (Ta), gallium (Ga), indium (In), germanium (Ge) and tellurium (Te) – that, to date, have been relatively under-researched. This paper reviews published concentrations of these elements in environmental archives and evaluated trends over time in surface waters. Overall, no evidence was found that the rising use of these elements in modern technologies is causing environmental concentrations to increase on a global level. These findings are relevant to future policy discussions regarding the source, usage and presence of less-studied TCEs, particularly in relation to critical raw metals.

Read more here


Sustainable urban drainage systems: green roofs and permeable paving compared in southern Italy

(Posted 29 March 2018)

A new study has looked at the potential of green infrastructure to compensate for the effects of soil sealing generated by urban development. It investigates how green roofs and permeable paving could contribute to flood mitigation in southern Italy. Using a hydraulic model technique, the researchers found that, in this particular urban case, green roofs were more effective than permeable paving. Policies to promote the adoption of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) by the private sector could thus prove more effective under certain circumstances, and policymakers should look at ways to promote SuDS where suitable.

Read more here


Innovative new study to monitor Scotland’s water from space

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Experts will use satellites to monitor the quality of water in Scotland’s lochs as part of a pioneering new project led by the University of Stirling. The Faculty of Natural Sciences is working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to investigate the feasibility of introducing earth observation technology to its day-to-day operations in a bid to improve the quality and efficiency of water sampling.

The cutting-edge approach uses the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite to identify potential contaminants in bodies of water, such as algal concentrations, harmful algal blooms, and mineral and organic matter.

Stirling currently leads the £2.9m GloboLakes project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, which has established the world’s first satellite-based global lake surveillance system. However, this new feasibility study will allow scientists to understand how the technology may benefit end users, in this case SEPA, in developing the approach as an operational capability and, in turn, improving their approach to assessing lake water quality. The £70,000 year-long study will began in February 2018; further funding, however, may allow the project to be extended by another two years.

Read more here


New information on rare River Severn fish population

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This research project examines the lifecycle of one of Britain’s rarest fish – the twaite shad. Monitoring work during the spring and summer of 2017 found that around 15,000 shad can make it above Upper Lode weir on the River Severn, near Tewkesbury, before being halted by Diglis Weir in Worcester. These monitoring results are significant because they indicate the current levels of twaite shad in the river which once supported millions of this species.

The research was conducted by the Severn Rivers Trust, Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust as part of the multi-million pound Unlocking the Severn project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and EU Life. The information gathered will be vital for the project which aims to restore the shad’s access to 155 miles of the River Severn, north of Worcester, by providing fish passage solutions at a series of weirs that currently the fish cannot swim over or around.

As well as the count of the shad, the monitoring team and its contractors made the first known underwater film of shad on the Severn as they migrated upstream and the first images of the shad’s spectacular spawning behaviour, which is like a whirling dancing with rigorous splashing seen just before dark.

More information about the Unlocking the Severn project is available online. You can also follow the project on twitter.


DNA-based metabarcoding approach to assess diatom communities in rivers

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This project has established a novel, DNA-based method to monitor and assess the make-up of diatom communities in rivers. This new approach will mean we can analyse a lot more samples more quickly.

We collect data on animal and plant life in the river to help us to understand, assess and manage the health of the environment. Diatoms, with around 2800 UK freshwater species recorded, are a type of microscopic algae used alongside other organisms to assess the ecological status of a river.

This project is part of a wider programme of research by the Environment Agency and other UK agencies to explore and develop DNA-based methods for ecological assessment. This work will help us to approach the development of DNA-based methods for other organism groups and water body types. Examples of other work include assessing the feasibility of using DNA based methods for fish in lakes, macroinvertebrates in rivers and lakes, and for the monitoring and surveillance of non-native invasive species (see the lead article in FWR newsletter February 2018: Discovering unseen biodiversity in our waters – does eDNA hold the key?).



Royal Netherlands Water Network: Water Matters magazine

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Water Matters is the knowledge magazine from the H2O professional journal. This issue covers a wide range of topics, from the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the surface water in residential districts through to a new method for determining fish populations using the DNA traces that fish leave in the water. Other topics include monitoring water temperature using fibre-optic cables and the role of crop rotation in reducing nitrate leaching.

Water Matters is published twice a year.

Read the magazine here:


Assessing the environmental safety of manufactured nanomaterials

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Engineering at the nanoscale (one million to ten thousand times smaller than a millimetre, ie 1 –100 nanometres) brings the promise of radical technological development – clean energy, highly effective medicines and space travel. But technology at this scale brings its own safety challenges. This In-depth Report for the European Commission shows that, despite early fears, nano-sized particles are not inherently more toxic than larger particles. However, differences between them may be notable and new insights are still being provided by research. The effects of nanoparticles on humans and the environment are complex and vary based on particle properties as well as chemical toxicity. This report brings together the latest science on environmental safety considerations specific to manufactured nanoscale materials, and the possible implications for policy and research.

Access the report here


The precautionary principle: decision-making under uncertainty

(Posted 29 March 2018)

One of the greatest challenges facing today's environmental policymakers is how to deal with complex risks, such as those associated with climate change. These risks are difficult to deal with because they are not precisely calculable in advance. Where there is scientific uncertainty about the full extent of possible harm but 'doing nothing' is also risky, decision-makers may use the precautionary principle. This European Commission Future Brief explores the role of the precautionary principle in EU law and policy, and examines key points of discussion drawn from the evidence.

Access the report here


Food from the Oceans

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This report from the European Commission asks: How can more food and biomass be obtained from the oceans in a way that does not deprive future generations of their benefits?

The ocean is one of the main systems of our planetary biosphere. It accounts for almost half of the planet's biological production, but a much smaller proportion of human food – about 2% of overall calorie intake and 15% of protein intake. This is no longer tenable given the nutritional needs of a growing population and over-stretched land-based resources. At the same time, with the oceans becoming warmer and more acidic, and with a larger proportion of the planet's population moving out of poverty, the global community needs to act together to ensure that the rights of future generations to a healthy and productive ocean are not compromised.

The European Commission requested scientific advice on extracting more food and biomass from the oceans, in order to inform preparations for the successor of the present European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and on-going development of the overall marine policy portfolio. The report provides a number of evidence-based policy recommendations on increasing the amount of food harvested from the ocean while maintaining healthy marine and coastal ecosystems.

To access the report click here


State of the environment: water quality

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This report consists of Environment Agency data and information summarising the state of water quality in England. It covers the key environmental issues relating to water quality and includes the water quality of rivers, estuaries, coasts and groundwater.

The report focuses on status and trends in:

  • nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrates
  • chemicals, such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals
  • bathing water quality
  • water pollution incidents.

It also summarises current and future pressures such as:

  • population growth
  • climate change
  • emerging pollutants.

Key findings:

  • In 2016, 86% of river water bodies had not reached good ecological status. The main reasons for this are agriculture and rural land management, the water industry, and urban and transport pressures.
  • Water quality issues were the cause of 38% of all fish test failures, and 61% of invertebrate test failures in rivers in 2015.
  • Pollutant loads to rivers from water industry discharges have declined in recent years, with reductions of up to 70% since 1995.
  • Over the last decade the number of serious water pollution incidents from water companies has remained broadly the same, with about 60 incidents each year.
  • For assessed river water bodies in England, 55% were at less than good status for phosphorus in 2016.
  • Nearly half of groundwater bodies will not reach good chemical status by 2021. For groundwaters protected for drinking water, nitrate levels were responsible for 65% of failures to achieve good chemical status.
  • Bathing water quality has improved over the last 30 years with 98% passing minimum standards and 65% at excellent status in 2017.
  • Population growth, climate change, emerging chemicals, plastic pollution, nano-particles and fracking all present potential future threats to water quality.


Freshwater Microplastics – Emerging Environmental Contaminants?

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This recently published book is available on open access online and can be downloaded freely, or is available to purchase as a hard copy:


This book focuses on microscopic plastic debris, also referred to as microplastics, which have been detected in aquatic environments around the globe and have raised serious concerns. It explores whether microplastics represent emerging contaminants in freshwater systems, an area that remains under-represented to date.

Given the complexity of the issue, the book covers the current state-of-research on microplastics in rivers and lakes, including analytical aspects, environmental concentrations and sources, modelling approaches, interactions with biota, and ecological implications. To provide a broader perspective, the book also discusses lessons learned from nanomaterials and the implications of plastic debris for regulation, politics, economy, and society. In a research field that is rapidly evolving, it offers a solid overview for environmental chemists, engineers, and toxicologists, as well as water managers and policymakers.


The National Water Vole Database and Mapping Project

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This project was established in January 2008 with the aim of collating and mapping available water vole data to:

  • Assess population and distribution trends.
  • Create a geographic information system for water voles to support conservation measures and enable more strategic working at local, regional and national levels.
  • Report against national BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) targets.

A project report has been produced each year since 2009, using records from the previous five years. This report presents an analysis of all water vole data from the last 10 years.

Analysis of the full data set over the last 10 years has revealed that water vole distribution has declined. The overall decline is estimated at 30% between 2006 and 2015 across England and Wales. This finding is of great concern and highlights the importance of this project in monitoring change and identifying issues of conservation concern. When the 30% figure is compared with the previously calculated estimate of a 94% decline in the number of sites where it was once prevalent in the last century, there is confidence that overall, despite conservation efforts to boost local populations locally, the range of water voles in England and Wales is continuing to contract.

Read more here


Marine Planning Newsletter – Winter 2018

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This issue includes news on the draft South Marine Plan and on the next stages of engagement in the North West, North East, South West and South East. Also features information on the publication Marine Licensing – A Guide for Local Planning Authorities.

To access the newsletter:


RSPB’s Sustainable Shores project

(Posted 29 March 2018)

The UK’s estuaries and coasts are incredibly valuable: as places to live, work, relax and play, and for the wealth of wildlife they support. They help protect us from flooding; they lock away carbon; they support our fisheries and they attract millions of visitors. It’s estimated that the value of the services provided by our coastal habitats is £48 billion.

However, our coastal zone is in trouble. It is shrinking. The RSPB’s Sustainable Shores project has found that since World War II we have lost over 15% of our UK saltmarsh (around 8,000ha), 18% of our sand dunes (16,000ha) and 46% of our shingle habitat (5,000ha). These losses are largely down to coastal development and land reclamation. Worryingly, without action we will lose a further 3000ha by 2050 due to climate change and sea level rise.

In their Sustainable Shores project report, the RSPB set out how we can address these challenges through habitat creation and restoration, learning from their own experience. The report also makes a number of recommendations to UK governments and policymakers to ensure that our precious coastal habitats are protected and enhanced for the benefit of people and wildlife, now and for the future.

Read more here


Great opportunities for UK from oceans

(Posted 29 March 2018)

This major report, looking at the future of the sea, sets out the opportunities available for the UK to capitalise on its existing strengths in research, technology and the diversity of ocean industries.

The report Foresight Future of the Sea, published by the Government Office for Science identifies four major areas that can deliver opportunities for the UK by exploiting its science and innovation – an improved understanding of the sea, greater co-ordination, a long-term approach to decision making and the increasing global nature of the challenges we face.

Science, industry and government all have a shared interest in a productive, healthy and well-understood sea. There are many opportunities for closer collaboration to achieve greater marine exploration, protection and economic output. The marine environment changes over inherently long timescales and emerging industries require a long-term commitment in order to demonstrate success. For these reasons, a long-term approach to decision making is important from both an economic and environmental perspective. The report outlines a number of recommendations to help the UK utilise its current expertise and technological strengths to foster trade links, build marine capacity across the world and collaborate to tackle climate change.

See source of information here


What has HLF done for nature?

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Researchers analysed grant award data from 1994 to March 2017. They also interviewed 20 key stakeholders from across the UK who have an interest in landscapes and nature. The aim of this research was to explore the strategic impact that HLF investment has had on landscapes and nature. The research includes case studies, grant award data and quotes from the many people interviewed.

HLF has invested over £765 million in landscape and nature projects which includes funding to:

  • Restore and conserve threatened habitats
  • Save species from extinction
  • Help reconnect people to landscapes and nature
  • Acquire land to improve its conservation
  • Enhance urban biodiversity and green spaces
  • Promote citizen science
  • Engage volunteers
  • Support skill development.

Grants awarded range from £3,000 to over £10m with projects spanning everything from engaging children in underwater safaris to restoring over 80 square miles of degraded peat bog in Scotland. HLF investment has allowed grantees to develop and test new methodologies, to build new partnerships, to work at a larger scale, to attract more match-funding, to create new visitor infrastructure, to grow conservation organisations and to improve organisational resilience.

Read the report here:


Testing the Waters – Microplastics in Scottish Seas

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Almost two-thirds of Scottish coastal waters tested by Greenpeace have been found to contain evidence of microplastic pollution, in the most detailed scientific study of its kind in the region published to date.

Scientists collected samples from 27 sites, with a focus on areas around the Hebrides known to be important feeding grounds for basking sharks and seabirds.

Despite the remoteness of Scottish coastal waters and the low levels of coastal development of the areas surveyed, 31 of 49 samples tested contained microplastics. Chemicals found in the samples include those used as additives in plastics, such as phthalate esters, heavy metals and flame retardants.

Surveys of the widespread problem posed by microplastics have been conducted at the sea surface in many areas around the world over the past few decades, but there is relatively little published information on their distribution in the waters around Scotland, or of their chemical characteristics. It was found that the abundance and types of microplastics vary greatly at different locations and different times in Scottish waters.

See the report here



Water and Health Workshop (31 January 2018)

Royal Society of Chemistry, Water Science Forum

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Water and Health are linked not only by the potable quality of drinking water but also via risks associated with exposure to aerosols and contaminated bathing waters. While drinking water production is closely monitored in the UK, the complexities associated with water distribution systems, storage tanks and air conditioning systems, together with the impact of hydraulic regime, can impact on the quality of the water supply. This can be exacerbated by interactions with pipework, nutrients, treatment chemicals, and processes associated with biofilm formation.

In ensuring that the health of the nation is given priority, the EPSRC have identified a ‘Healthy Nation’ as one of their Prosperity Outcomes of the strategy and delivery plan up to 2020. The EPSRC identifies that the development of new technologies materials will enhance our ability to predict, detect and treat disease. The application of new sensing technologies along with more traditional approaches and the application of connected systems can be used for the early detection of microbial pathogens and toxic chemicals, ensuring the supply of clean water, free of waterborne disease, and contributing towards a healthy nation.

This workshop opened with a keynote talk from Public Health England giving an overview of waterborne disease, followed by presentations from companies and researchers showcasing the latest devices and sensor technologies that are able to rapidly detect microbiological and related contaminants.


Microplastic Pollution: Everyone’s problem – but what is being done about it?  (16 October 2017)

Royal Society of Chemistry, Water Science Forum

(Posted 29 March 2018)

Plastic pollution is recognised as a serious worldwide problem in the marine environment, added to which there is mounting evidence for more insidious effects on aquatic ecosystems via freshwater sources and wastewaters. It has been shown that significant quantities of microfibres from washing synthetic fabrics end up in sewage sludge and also escape current water treatment processes. Microparticles can interfere with feeding patterns of aquatic life and expose them to plasticisers and other additives. Plastics can also preferentially sorb persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic pollutants which, if they enter the food chain, pose potential health risks to aquatic and terrestrial higher organisms, including people. This workshop brought together researchers from marine and freshwater backgrounds to review our current understanding of the risks and knowledge gaps. There were discussions on how best to address plastic pollution of the aquatic environment and respond to the identified evidence gaps and policy needs.