AN ambitious bid to help resolve the ecological decline of the River Wye has been submitted to DEFRA this week.

The Wye & Usk Foundation, in partnership with the Rivers Trust and 14 landowners, have developed a project to introduce new ways of managing land in the Wye and Lugg catchments that will protect rivers.

The recent decline of the ecology of the highly protected Wye has been dramatic. High levels of nutrients entering the river, including phosphorus, have been combining with low water levels to cause increasingly severe algal blooms in the spring and summer months.

High phosphorus levels have also resulted in moratoriums on construction and housing development in the Lugg catchment, with significant impact on the Powys and Herefordshire economies.

Kate Speke-Adams, head of land use for the Wye & Usk Foundation, said: “Existing regulations and voluntary schemes do not fully address the complicated issues in the Wye and our project is designed to fill that gap.

“We want a landscape recovery scheme to deliver a combination of measures to improve the fortunes of our river. If successful, the scheme will not just improve water quality, it will secure multiple other benefits: the risk of flooding will reduce, biodiversity will improve and more carbon will be stored in the soils.”

The objective of this project is to reduce significantly the amount of phosphorus entering rivers from agricultural sources over the next 20 years. The proposal includes an initial 11 square kilometres (1,100 hectares) of Herefordshire farmland and if successful, coverage will be expanded to a far higher proportion of the catchment.

The scheme proposes measures to drastically reduce soil and chemicals washing off the land, create wetlands to soak up nutrients flowing out of drains and support changes to agricultural practices to reduce the levels of phosphorus stored in Herefordshire soils.

The project will work alongside other efforts to resolve the Wye’s water quality problems, including those of companies within the food supply chain and Dwr Cymru improving its infrastructure at sewage treatment works.

Martin Williams, who farms on the banks of the Wye, said: “The bid is a golden opportunity for farmers in the catchment.

“If agriculture is 70 per cent of the problem this project is a huge step towards us being 70 per cent of the solution.”

DEFRA are expected to announce the successful bids by early June.