MOST of us take the Thames very much for granted as a place for recreation and relaxation – but it has a significant role to play in our overall lives as a source of water, as a habitat for wildlife and as a potential flood threat.
And that is why the Environment Agency, along with a number of other interested parties, has produced a draft river management plan for the Thames River Basin District (RBD) which sets out a number of objectives for managing the river over the next 20 years.
A consultation document has been available from the Environment Agency since December 2008 but I’ve decided to focus on it now because the closing date for comments is June 22 and some of the proposals contained in the document could have wide-ranging implications for those living and working along the Thames.
The overall objective of the plan is to improve and safeguard water resources along the whole length of the river and the proposals include:
- Improving water quality by reducing the amount of pollution in the river from agricultural pesticides and fertilizers
- Improving the treatment of sewage and reducing the amount of effluent entering the river
- Requiring local authorities to provide adequate infrastructure to cope with water and sewage demands from new housing developments – and to look at changes in planning permission to restrict overdevelopment in the river basin
- Controlling the amount of water taken from the river by water companies and other industrial concerns
- Protecting wildlife habitats and coming up with a coordinated plan to deal with invasive non-native species of wildlife (e.g: mitten crabs)
Specifically in our area, the EA document points to the fact that water quality between Maidenhead and Sunbury is currently moderate at best and, in some cases, poor, with high levels of ammonia and phosphates. The River Wey fares a little better but even there, the report points to high urban development and barriers to fish migration.
The Thames RBD plan sets out a number of proposals to achieve the objectives and estimates the potential costs of these measures at between £74.7m and £86.4m per year – costs which could impact on the price of your water bills and your community charge.
The full consultation document is available online on the EA website at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure. Click on the draft river basin management plans box. The agency is keen to get as many people as possible to comment on the proposals by the closing date.
The 73-page document is a bit wordy at times but I think it’s in the interests of those who love the river to take the time to read through it.