AN environmental group has called for action to help save an iconic river that flows through much of Powys

River Action – a citizen science monitoring project run by local environmental activists – has compiled water samples and collected measure levels and types of pollution along stretches of the River Wye, and its many tributaries that flow throughout mid and south Powys. River Action says it is now in need of funding to pay for the equipment used to collect samples and measure pollution levels.

Charles Watson, chairman of River Action, said: “Our citizen scientists are essentially the front-line troops in the war against the pollution crisis facing our rivers.

“We are thrilled to be supporting this critical project across the Wye catchment and urge all our supporters to donate to this crucial research if they are able. It doesn’t matter how small the donation: every pound will make a difference.

“The data these projects produce is vital to the fight against river pollution, giving us the crucial information needed to show governments and polluters the shocking extent to which our rivers are dying.”

The future of the Wye has been a long flowing debate, especially in recent years following outbreaks of algal blooms in the warmer months and concerns over dangerously rising phosphate levels, which some argue is linked to the farming industry.


The dangers it is facing were even brought to the attention of Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday – when he was asked by Hereford and South Herefordshire MP Jesse Norman to press agencies to stop pollution.

According to research from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), over 60 per cent of the Wye catchment is failing to meet pollution targets. Evidence submitted to the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee by Lancaster University’s RePhoKUs project showed that the Wye’s soils are now carrying an unacceptable surplus of three times the national average phosphate levels.

This is widely seen as the cause of the recent algal blooms which have suffocated river life, resulting in the loss of 95 per cent of the river’s ranunculus weed (buttercup, water plant) over the last three years.

The declining health of the UK’s rivers has been monitored by citizen scientists, who have been carrying out their own research on the water quality of the Wye catchment.

The aim is to collect data that highlights the need for change from government, local authorities and regulatory agencies to tackle the river pollution crisis. Every single river in England is polluted beyond legal limits and, in Wales, 44 per cent of rivers fail to meet ‘good ecological status’ which campaigners have linked to the budget cuts suffered by the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales.

It is why citizen scientists have begun carrying out their own research to make up for the lack of data being produced.

The project working to monitor and collect data in the River Wye and its tributaries – such as the Lugg near Llangunllo/Presteigne; Elan and Marteg (Elan Valley/Rhayader); Irfon (Llanwrtyd Wells/Builth Wells); Ithon (Kerry/Llanbadarn Fynydd/Llanbister/Llandrindod Wells) and Llynfi (Bwlch/Llangorse/Talgarth/Glasbury) – requires vital funding to pay for the equipment used to collect data.

River Action has launched a crowdfunding campaign asking for the public to donate money to support the continuation of this project. Money raised will also enable the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust to employ a team member to manage and scale the project. This will allow for River Action to reach more of the Wye’s tributaries and gather more samples to highlight the scale of the crisis. You can donate at

In a rather odd exchange with MP Mr Norman on Wednesday, when the Prime Minister was asked if he would press agencies like Natural Resources Wales, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Welsh Government to react, Mr Johnson described a 5am swim he once enjoyed in the Wye.

“I had a memorable swim in the Wye myself I think at 5 o'clock in the morning once and it tasted like nectar,” said Mr Johnson.

He urged the Welsh Government to take pollution in the river seriously and said environment minister George Eustice would be visiting the Wye soon.

County Times:  Boris Johnson talked of once taking a 5am swim in the River Wye, describing it as tasting like "nectar", when he was asked to press environment agencies over its survival Boris Johnson talked of once taking a 5am swim in the River Wye, describing it as tasting like "nectar", when he was asked to press environment agencies over its survival

The Prime Minister said: “I understand the problem and it is very important that our beautiful rivers should be clean.

“The environment minister will be visiting the Wye area shortly with or without his swimming trunks.

“I know that we're urging the Welsh Government to take this matter as seriously as this government is.”

The intense rise in chicken farms in Powys in the last decade is seen by many as a major contributing factor to increased phosphate levels in the Wye – although the agricultural industry disputes this, with bodies like the National Farmers Union speaking out often.

In December 2020, however, NRW said poultry units were just one of many reasons that could be contributing to failing phosphate levels. In January 2021 the agency said the Wye had failed to reach phosphate testing standards.

A Judicial Review, meanwhile, into whether the action plan on phosphates in the Wye by NRW and their English counterparts was unlawful, was launched by nature campaign group Wild Justice in November. And earlier this month, the Environmental Audit Committee's Water Quality in Rivers report – headed by influential MPs – supplied evidence saying NRW and its counterparts have failed to provide a solution to the problem.