River testing in England has declined drastically in the last decade, with experts warning that this has created a knowledge gap on the impacts of pollution.
According to Environment Agency statistics, river testing has decreased from over 100,000 samples per year in 2012 to 41,519 in 2021 – the lowest level of sampling in 20 years, except for the drop-off during Covid in 2020.
The substantial drop in monitoring coincided with repeated funding cuts to the EA, which its departing chair, Emma Howard Boyd, claimed had prevented the agency from carrying out essential water quality studies.
Experts warn drop from 100,000 samples
(Photo : Xianyu hao//Unsplash)
(Photo : Xianyu hao//Unsplash)
According to Dr. Barnaby Dobson, a water systems expert at Imperial College London, “the largest risk to water quality, in my opinion, is a lack of sampling and monitoring. We can’t figure out where we’re failing if we don’t look,” as per The Guardian.
Scientists can’t know about the influence of rivers unless they sample them, so how will they know what the country’s largest water quality issues are if they don’t look at rivers?
When rivers are low in flow during drought circumstances, as they have been this year, the risk of pollution increases.
Because of the low flow, contaminant concentrations, such as phosphate and E. coli, are substantially higher in flowing water, prompting worries that discharges have a far bigger harmful impact.
The most recent tests conducted under the EU water framework directive in 2019 revealed that English rivers were in appalling condition, with no river passing quality standards for ecological and chemical status.
However, after 2019 and Brexit, testing has decreased, creating a knowledge gap regarding the potential additional degradation of waterways.
Rivers were polluted by a combination of pollutants from agricultural, treated and untreated sewage, and plastic, according to a devastating study by MPs on the environmental audit committee.
In a report released this month on river catchment testing, Dobson stated that informal testing programs were rapidly replacing standard regulatory surveys, such as those conducted by the EA, for river samples.
He stated that funds for sampling should be returned to the EA.
According to Nick Measham, chief executive of the charity Wild Fish, testing is critical, and sampling requires independence.
“Monitoring, done by the EA rather than self-interested actors such as water firms, is critical to any environmental protection framework,” he added. “There is no evidence if there is no surveillance.”
Monitoring serves as the foundation for the inspection and enforcement required to reduce pollution.
The EA’s independent monitoring efforts have dwindled significantly over time. Without monitoring, issues vanish.
According to recent statistics, the major reasons for rivers failing ecological and chemical quality tests include contamination from treated and untreated sewage discharges, as well as agricultural runoff.
Agriculture influences roughly two-thirds of rivers, water affects more than half, and urban and transportation affect a quarter.
The analysis concluded that discharges of treated sewage effluent had the greatest impact on rivers, affecting 43% of river water bodies in 2020.
Raw sewage discharges caused by storm overflows contributed to 12% of river water bodies’ failing requirements.
“We continue to collect tens of thousands of water quality samples every year as part of our work to keep rivers clean,” said an Environment Agency official.
Technological advancements and increasing efficiency have enabled scientists to concentrate their resources and target regions where the environment will benefit the most in recent years.
Also Read: New Study Shows River Pollution Are Caused by Mixture of Chemical Cocktail
Water pollution is classified according to the source or the characteristics of the water body affected, as per Fair Planet.
Water occurring naturally on the earth’s surface is referred to as surface water. Lagoons, rivers, seas, and lakes are examples.
Contamination of such water features occurs as a result of contaminants dissolving or combining with the water.
It can be unintentional, such as oil spills in the ocean, or planned, such as companies dumping garbage into rivers or the sea.
It occurs when dangerous chemicals and particles put to the surface by people seep into the ground via precipitation.
Contaminants contaminate subsurface water features such as underground rivers and waterbeds. As a result, wells and boreholes may get polluted.
The most prevalent source of environmental contamination is the use of pesticides and fertilizer on farms.
Chemicals are the most frequent sort of water contamination. They have an impact on both surface and subsurface bodies of water. The major cause is industrial and agricultural operations.
Solvents and metals used in industry can damage rivers and lakes.
Another source of soil contamination is a pesticide-based weed, insect, and fungal control in agriculture.
Petroleum spills can also cause chemical pollution.
Although nutrients are necessary for plant and aquatic life, an excess of them is hazardous. The nutrients essential for plant development are abundant in wastewater and fertilizers.
As a result, when they wind up in the water, they produce fast and uncontrolled development of plant and algae on the water’s surface.
It causes water filters to clog and contaminates drinking water. It also depletes all available oxygen, resulting in the extinction of marine life.
Related article: Water Pollution: Orange Peels Can Suck Up Mercury, New Study Shows
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