“Challenges and Choices, what is it?” you might be thinking. The more eagle-eyed among you may have linked that as this is a blog from one of the Water for Wildlife officers that it is something to do with water, and you would be right.
Environment Agency Policy
The ‘Challenges and Choices’ consultation from the Environment Agency (EA) will help them to formulate and update the current river basin management plans. The EA is asking essential questions about the water environment: its use, protection, and who pays. They are seeking as many people across the country as possible to respond so they can take into account the widest range of views possible.
The water environment in the UK has an impact on us all. At the most fundamental level, around 60% of the adult human body is water! Many of us use water for recreation, be it swimming, fishing, or kayaking; of course it is used to help grow the food we eat and support businesses, too. Many additional 'ecosystem services' that the water environment provides mean the whole system is worth billions to the UK economy. The EA recognises that we urgently need to protect and improve our waters and find a better balance that meets the needs of people and nature.
Water as habitat
Importantly the freshwater environment is home to thousands of species, at least 4,000 invertebrates alone. Many of these species depend on good quality water and associated habitats to thrive, and with just 17% of England’s rivers are in ‘Good’ health it is more important than ever to make sure our rivers and freshwater ecosystems are improved and protected for people and wildlife.
Extra stress is being exerted on our freshwater ecosystems due to unpredictable and increasingly extreme weather patterns because of climate change. This ranges from fish that are struggling to cope in too warm waters to lack of rain that is preventing our groundwater and watercourses from recharging properly. Climate change is having a big impact on our river systems with our chalk rivers suffering the most, and completely drying up in areas. (Read more about the chalk stream crisis here)
The Wildlife Trust BCN works on a number of important watercourses across the region, including large main rivers such as the Great Ouse and chalk rivers like the Cam, on projects protecting and enhancing the natural environment, including protecting and monitoring water voles, invasive species removal, and river restoration.