CALLS for more stringent regulation of phosphate levels in the River Wye appear to be close as data is expected to show levels have been repeatedly exceeded for the last four years.

In 2016, tougher limits for phosphate in all rivers was recommended by the UK’s Technical Advisory Group for the EU Water Framework Directive, and these were only taken up in Scotland.

Earlier this year a row erupted between campaign groups over the impact on the river of the higher levels of phosphate, after the Wye was seen to turn green.

Now the Wye & Usk Foundation says it hopes a review by Natural Resources Wales will recommend a re-adoption of the 2016 phosphate limits, which could in turn lead to a moratorium on new farm applications in the area.

In a newsletter released on Monday, the foundation said: “In a public meeting last week, Natural Resources Wales confirmed that they expected a data review to show the Upper Wye has been exceeding its permitted phosphate levels for at least the last four years.

“While we await official confirmation from Natural Resources Wales, the potential implications for the Wye are substantial.

“It will mean many other Special Areas of Conservation rivers in Wales are also likely to be failing their phosphate limits, including the Usk.

“As a result, the regulator might soon be advising county councils in SAC catchments across Wales that any domestic, industrial or agricultural planning application will need to offset its phosphate impact on the river.”

Farmers say they are working within their limits, and that sunshine and low water flows in the hot summer have contributed to the problems.

In June, an NFU spokesman said: “The poor portrayal of the industry has left farmers feeling scarred and hurt that an organisation with whom they have worked in partnership for many years could issue such a reckless and damaging statement.”

County Times:

The River Wye turned green earlier this year

The Welsh Government has said that environment body, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is now working on the review.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “A review of nutrient levels in rivers in Wales is currently being undertaken by Natural Resources Wales – if that review provided any such evidence, we would be able to consider a moratorium, but only once the review is complete.

“We are working with stakeholders to develop updated national guidance to support authorities in fulfilling their planning responsibilities.”

One of the main effects of algal blooms is to block out light entering the river and turning the water green. This stifles the growth of ranunculus, a plant vital for the river’s ecology, which is a food source for swans and a habitat for invertebrates.

It is also essential as habitat and refuge for fish, and has been pointed to as a cause of falling fish stocks in the river.

So strong was public reaction to a press release from the foundation in June on the Wye’s algal blooms, that the matter was raised in Parliament.

The Wildlife Trusts on Tuesday tweeted: “River pollution in Wales is causing serious damage to sensitive habitats.

“Wildlife Trusts Wales, along with a coalition of organisations, are calling for a halt on new intensive poultry units in Powys.”