The Evenlode

Hannen Beith
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Fri 3 Jul, 18:57

Well, not the Evenlode, but not far away.

https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/18554631.mothers-warning-river-hazards-children-cut-feet/

Rod Evans
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Fri 3 Jul, 18:13 (last edited on Fri 3 Jul, 18:26)

The links are coming in so thick and fast I can’t keep up – but here’s another really interesting one!  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/02/mp-crackdown-raw-sewage-discharges-rivers-philip-dunne-private-members-bill-polluter

The more I delve into this the more it seems there is to delve into – and some of it’s pretty murky (sorry!).  I hope – whoever you might be – you’ll bear with me thinking aloud here, but this clearly goes well beyond the banks of the Evenlode.  What I’m thinking is to flag up the more contentious aspects over on the Dark Side (i.e. the Debate section) once I’ve delved sufficiently but I’d like to invite others to think about how best we might take this forward locally – and thus ‘feed into’ the wider debate.

There is also an urgency to it which I hadn’t anticipated in that a ‘woman who knows’ has just told me that the Environment Bill is due to come back to the Commons in October – which may well explain Mr Dunne’s timing (see above link).  His detailed proposals I don’t think have been published yet but very few private members’ Bills get through and he may be hoping to do a deal so that they are incorporated into the government’s.

The main point for now though is that the Bill will replace the relevant EU legislation post-Brexit.  That is both an opportunity – to improve the existing regime – and a threat in that it could result in an even weaker regulatory system and removal of targets which are legally binding on the government (the UK has been prosecuted at least twice for failing to meet the requirements of EU water directives ).

This of course is an issue which is and should be part of a wider green agenda – but it could be easily overshadowed by other issues and the initiative lost if not pursued separately - and at such a crucial time.  My thinking at the moment is to look to the WASP example – and go for CUTE!  - Clean Up The Evenlode! i.e. as a single issue pressure group (though may need to look wider than just sewage waste) as I think that’s likely to be more effective. But what do others think? We can’t have a meeting just now so let’s hear others’ thoughts here on the Forum.

If all this is new to you, do look at WASP’s ‘Ten things you should know before you put your hand in a river’ – link below.

Oh and a small irony to leave you with.  Rather as the European Convention on Human rights was drafted by a former British Lord Chancellor, much of the EU Water Framework Directive was apparently the brainchild of one Stanley Johnson - and was initially known informally as 'the British Directive'....

Ann Lloyd
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Thu 2 Jul, 13:25

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/01/one-man-fight-bathing-water-status-bath-river-avon-johnny-palmer

Anne Miller
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Wed 1 Jul, 21:46

Another good initiative which may be helpful, Rod, and others who are keen to get involved: 

https://www.theriverstrust.org/2020/07/01/new-campaign-aims-to-see-bathing-water-standards-introduced-to-uk-rivers/

Rod Evans
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Wed 1 Jul, 21:30 (last edited on Wed 1 Jul, 21:31)

Thanks Flora, all very useful - though I may need a little help getting my head around some of the EA data! There are many people way ahead of me on all this.  I'm still researching - slowly - but for anyone else who might be interested (and I already know of some), this is a useful place to start, a WWF report from 2017 https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-12/Flushed%20Away__Nov2017.pdf   (can also be found via the WASP website). 

Flora's last link may be to the Guardian but that doesn't mean the contents are untrue!  And it's that headline - and what follows - that makes this for me a political issue, in the sense that it will take (more) political action to see progress.  We certainly won't see privatisation reversed under the present government and I'm yet to be convinced that a straight forward re-nationalisation would be the best long-term solution.  But even to see the present regime properly managed and enforced would seem to be a major step forward.  I'm still not sure where I'm going with it all personally yet but please don't hesitate to get in touch if you want to 'register an interest' - or more.

Flora Gregory
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Wed 1 Jul, 19:01 (last edited on Wed 1 Jul, 19:10)

And this...

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/01/water-firms-raw-sewage-england-rivers?CMP=share_btn_tw

If you look on the interactive map it says:

Chadlington SW Owned by: THAMES WATER UTILITIES LTD

In 2019, this storm overflow spilled 94 times for a total of 401 hours.

Discharging into a Freshwater river called CHADLINGTON STREAM

I include this because it's upstream I think of us, and you can look at the others at Milton UW and Bledington and Broadwell similarly.

Charlbury SW Owned by: THAMES WATER UTILITIES LTD

In 2019, this storm overflow spilled 40 times for a total of 154 hours.

Discharging into a Freshwater river called Evenlode

Flora Gregory
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Tue 30 Jun, 18:38

https://severnriverstrust.com

were co-ordinating river fly monitoring including in this area, might be worth contacting them to find latest information ?

Flora Gregory
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Tue 30 Jun, 17:53

This link also might be interesting Rod ?

https://environment.data.gov.uk/water-quality/view/sampling-point/TH-PEVE0004?_all=true

Apart from chemical samples above, someone (voluntary) will I think be taking counts of insect life etc. and putting them on a central data system ? Certainly that was the case some years ago.

Ultimately our environmental bodies are not at their strongest at the moment are they certainly where enforcement is concerned, and investment into infrastructure is not a priority for water corporations. Yes it's across the country. Sorry state of affairs. 

https://inews.co.uk/news/environment/uk-rivers-pollution-wild-swimming-environment-agency-322083

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pollution-no-river-in-england-is-safe-for-swimming-q8thdx678

In the current climate it has to be driven by local community...regular sampling is the thing so there is evidence - which is what WASP has been doing and political pressure at different levels. 

Hope I've added something useful. 

Anne Miller
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Wed 24 Jun, 10:22

I am not a regular participant in the forum I am afraid so had missed Rod's postings and the responses until now, but having been alerted to it, I just want to chip in something about the Evenlode Catchment Partnership in response. 

As Rod noted the ECP is hosted by Wild Oxfordshire, and has been proactive over the last 5 years in dealing with flood reduction measures, with a number of different projects which I am happy to share more information about, which focussed on dealing with acute challenges, particularly upstream from us around Milton and Ascot. However, that is by no means the only thing that the partnership has done, and water quality and the challenges from rural STWs have been very much an issue for us, too, just not so high profile in terms of what was shared on the website. ECP have been working with the parish council in Milton for several years now, to support them with on-going challenges with their STW. (more info on that at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-46653684). ECP are fully supportive of WASP, sharing information and inviting them to talk at their 2019 AGM,  held in Milton village hall.  

I should say that the ECP receives a massive grant of £7,500 from DEFRA every year to run it, so as you can imagine it is run largely by volunteers and a very slim staff, and hosted and supported by the tiny charity, Wild Oxfordshire. Anyone who is keen to be involved is welcome to join us, so Rod (and others) please do feel free to do so. I am hoping that we can get the Town Council more involved with this in future, especially in supporting the fantastic work that WASP have carried out.

Ironically we had planned to have a March meeting with speakers to build more engagement in Charlbury, so that ECP could explain more about who is involved and how others could become active with us, as a follow on from some of the environmental initiatives that were kicked off with February's Climate Emergency workshop but of course Covid put paid to that!

As those who know me will attest, I am very keen on action rather than endless meetings, but of course the river naturally links all of us who are concerned with its health, and as others have commented here, all the rivers around this region, and across much of England are exhibiting the same terrible quality issues. We need more data to hold the water companies and also DEFRA and the Environment Agency  to account for the frequent failures of the treatment systems, but this is costly in both equipment and people prepared to carry out routine monitoring: we do have some trained river fly monitoring folks in our community and could do more to develop this aspect of monitoring the health of the river, which is the approach they have taken in Milton, developing long-term data sets which are actually very powerful evidence of good health (or not!).

I would love to see us developing a community who share the love of our river and what it provides in terms of recreation and beauty, as well as a water supply (always under threat from over-abstraction, a risk that will only get worse if the Oxford-Cambridge growth arc goes ahead as planned!) as well as the repository for the treated effluent from our treatment works! 

Can I also say that there is a move to press Thames Water to adopt what is known as tertiary treatment of the effluent from the STWs, to take out the phosphorous but also many of the residual microbes and other potentially harmful substances from the treated effluent before it is released back into the river. Thames Water own a large area of land adjacent to the treatment beds at Charlbury STW which might offer that possibility, so I am sure there is scope for us to act locally, to be an exemplar of good practice, and to test out what works in a cost-effective way (at present the claim is that it is not cost effective to put this treatment into so many small local sources, yet these are cumulatively the source of 80% of the phosphorous in the river, which is currently failing in water quality and being targeted by Thames as a key pollutant that they want to reduce).

So in summary a lot of opportunities, and a very pressing problem, and really important that we build on the work that WASP are doing and press all the councillors to get involved in supporting them in challenging the powers that be to act now on what promises to become another national crisis if we don't act!

Rod Evans
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Tue 23 Jun, 15:38 (last edited on Tue 23 Jun, 15:41)

The Observer this week carried a feature on the effects of the run-off Glena mentions.  Sad that a production method generally favoured for other reasons is having such an impact, surely not beyond the wit of someone to find a solution.  Just don't get me started on salmon farming!

I'm slowly finding out more locally.  Judging by its website, the Cotswolds Rivers Trust appears to have gone to sleep in 2016.  Anyone know different?

glena chadwick
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Mon 22 Jun, 11:45

The last newsletter I have received from CPRE said that the Wye is suffering very badly from the run off from free range poultry farms which greatly increased near the river.

Rod Evans
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Thu 18 Jun, 23:35 (last edited on Thu 18 Jun, 23:43)

Thanks for all your responses.  I posted in the early days of the thread Hannen mentions but somehow missed the later posts – still recovering from Wilderness perhaps!

As a life-long fisherperson I've been aware of the wider problems for a while if yet to understand them fully – and local knowledge always useful.  Am still researching via https://www.windrushwasp.org/ and https://www.wildoxfordshire.org.uk/biodiversity/river-catchments/evenlode-catchment/ in particular, any other sources gladly received.

Just a couple of comments for now.  The mill stream is clearer now than it was even 2 or 3 weeks ago, I suspect because with the sluice gate down, it’s barely moving so the silt/particles have probably settled on the bottom.  The crayfish certainly do damage and must affect fish nos as they often have small ones in their claws when caught (I have a licence!) – but little doubt all the things Janet mentions contribute greatly and collectively to the problems.  I’ve still a lot to learn but the worst of them so far appears to be sewage waste followed by agricultural and other run-offs – though am not yet sure how you distinguish.

As others have pointed out, the whole structure of the water industry seems to me to be skewed, not least as Janet mentions that the water companies are effectively self-regulating (over their sewage discharges), not to mention that their main motivation of course is to secure a profit for their investors, not to look after the environment in which they make those profits.  I don’t want this to be cast into the Outer Darkness of the Debate section (not the first time I've said that!), at least not yet, so I won’t go further on that for now.

I’ll probably post again ‘in due course’ – I may live to regret this but it occurs to me we (who??) might set up a companion organisation to WASP – perhaps call it Clean Up The Evenlode?!

Hannen Beith
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Wed 17 Jun, 11:39

There were some very interesting contributions on this topic last year.  See:

https://www.charlbury.info/forum/6232#35242

Angus B
👍 1

Wed 17 Jun, 11:26

I was interested to see this morning that, although the river is very murky the millstream joining it, just past the mill field, is very clear.

Janet Burroughs
👍 4

Wed 17 Jun, 10:52

Rod - some thoughts from my husband - based on his life long experience of fishing and love of the countryside. 

When we moved to Charlbury 42 years ago the Evenlode was clear, free flowing and had plenty of weed to support insect life. 

In the last 10-15 years it has become a muddy, slow flowing river with a lack of weed. 

There are a number of possible causes: 

1 The arrival of the invasive American cray fish whose numbers have exploded and its abnormal activity  causing bank erosion and a stirring up of the river bed have affected clarity. This will have affected the gravel bed - the true sign of a clean river where insects lay eggs, and a new generation is born.

2 The lack of flow of water could be in part due to water extraction higher up the river, and also a change in weather patterns.

3 Pollution is also an increasing concern - caused by human waste and agricultural waste. 

The increase in house building has resulted in an increased need for waste disposal but it appears that the water companies have not invested sufficiently in infrastructure required for the safe disposal of human waste. 

And the water companies are now self regulating.   

The Windrush is also suffering and those fishing it in the Witney area have now  been advised not to eat any fish they catch. 

Modern farming methods may also be contributing to pollution - with run off of chemicals and pesticides and organic matter, particularly from the larger farming units. This can lead to excessive algae growth which is proving catastrophic for fish. 

The River Wye, one of the premier salmon fishing rivers in the country, is also suffering badly. It is happening everywhere.    

Andrew Lawson
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Wed 17 Jun, 10:42

The Evenlode has got much more cloudy in recent years, and I was told that this is due to the invasive signal crayfish, originally from America. It is a bottom feeder and stirs up the silt on the river bottom. It is a pest, and it is rapidly replacing our native crayfish.

Flora Gregory
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Wed 17 Jun, 09:42

I guess I'd talk to WASP...

Rod Evans
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Tue 16 Jun, 14:39

Someone recently said to me that the Evenlode has always been a muddy stream.  Not surprising given its geology but back in April it was running clearer than it is now, with noticeably more weed growth than in recent years.  Now with much lower flows, it's about as murky as it gets!  This suggests that whatever it is that causes its turbidity has become either just more concentrated and/or there's more of it.  Am going to enquire elsewhere as well but anyone able to shed any light on this? 

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