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Most rivers in good condition but no grounds for complacency

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Latest monitoring has revealed that over 90% of Manx rivers were of a good or better quality this summer. This is an encouraging trend compared to recent years, when a gradual decline had been noted in our better rivers, based on measures of organic chemical water quality, which reflect pollution such as sewage, farm waste and slurry.

The majority of Manx rivers are not polluted and are capable of supporting diverse and sensitive wildlife, such as caddis flies, shrimps, snails and brown trout. This improvement indicates that some rivers which were only of moderate or poor quality and could only support tolerant animals such as worms, hog-lice and midge larvae, have gradually increased in quality to the point that they are now capable of supporting more sensitive insects and, in some cases, fish.

Despite these largely encouraging results, problems remain. In the 10 years up until 2008, summer monitoring indicated that 70% of the Island’s rivers fell into the highest water quality class of ‘very good’, meaning they were unspoilt, pollution free and capable of supporting animals such as sensitive mayfly and salmon and trout. However, there was a sharp decline in this water quality class in 2009 and since then the number of pristine rivers has hovered around the present 61%. In addition a few of our rivers persistently show very poor quality, indicating signs of pollution and stress.

Rivers are good reflectors of the state of the natural environment. Although the Freshwater Biologist monitors many rivers regularly and the Environmental Protection Unit seeks to regulate discharges and resolve pollution problems, it is ultimately the responsibility of the public, industry and the farming community to minimise their own impacts on the Island’s rivers.

Brenda Cannell, MHK, Member for the Environment Directorate said:

“This is an encouraging report but we must not be too complacent. I would urge businesses and individuals to think long and hard about the type of material finding its way into our drainage systems and ultimately our rivers and the impact that material may have on our environment.”

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