The Water Quality report published by the EPA today confirms the ongoing decline of pristine water quality areas, which is one of the great environmental failings of our time. The number of river locations with pure clean water has fallen from 500 sites in the late 1980s to only 21 locations today.
To turn these figures around we need a new national land use plan. We have to move away from the current intensive farming model and adopt 'High Nature Value' agriculture instead. This has to benefit the farmer as well as the environment. In the West and Southwest of the country we will have to pay for protecting biodiversity, storing carbon and managing floodwaters. In the rich grasslands to the south and east we need more precision grass, nutrient and water management, to reduce the use of fertilizers and cut out the pollution at source.
We must also stop the inappropriate spread of manures from farming and the runoff of sewage from leaking septic tanks and faulty sewage systems. We need to match such an approach with an end to the destruction of our bogs and the clear felling of forestry, both of which are silting of our rivers and lakes.
It is not impossible to turn this around but we will have to look to ourselves for best case example. The Danes, Dutch and Germans have ruined their waters by developing an unsustainable agricultural model. For once we have the chance of showing them what to do. We can start by setting the restoration of pristine clean rivers and lakes as a national goal. The Green movement needs every farmer, forester and land owner on board. We have 70,000 km of rivers to look after, we want them to run clean and free of the pollution as was commonplace only a few decades ago.