The parlous state of the UK's rivers?

I know a reasonable amount about rivers and a claim to fame is that Fergal Sharkey tweeted about one of my papers! One of the key things missing in the discussion is climate change. Even if we clean up agriculture the legacy phosphorus in soils will continue to be delivered by increased runoff From wetter winters. Legislation like the water framework directive doesn’t incorporate climate change very well. TheEA do their best but workforce has been cut year on year. The private utilities are very variable, some are quite progressive others motivated only by shareholders.
 
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NeverFromConcentrate

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Location
Herefordshire
worth pointing out that just ten years ago the strike price for offshore wind was actually greater >100GBP MWh
Indeed. That was the point of my observation about the power law relationship between cost and cumulative installed capacity of these new renewable technologies. Nuclear power is mature and can not follow this trajectory. Where PV and wind will bottom out, who knows, all that matters is that they are cheaper than conventional polluting power generation, and that's without a carbon tax or atmospheric pollution tax. Carbon sequestration sounds great but hasn't been technically achieved yet, and has the effect of reducing the thermal efficiency of a supercritical pulverized fuel coal plant from ~42% to 36%, a significant commercial penalty for the operator. My money is firmly on renewables, but I would say that, I've been in the field since I went to University (for free).
 
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NeverFromConcentrate

Well-Known Member
Location
Herefordshire
I know a reasonable amount about rivers and a claim to fame is that Fergal Sharkey tweeted about one of my papers! One of the key things missing in the discussion is climate change. Even if we clean up agriculture the legacy phosphorus in soils will continue to be delivered by increased runoff From wetter winters. Legislation like the water framework directive doesn’t incorporate climate change very well. TheEA do their best but workforce has been cut year on year. The private utilities are very variable, some are quite progressive others motivated only by shareholders.
Are you by any chance involved with the RePhoKus project? I agree about legacy runoff - the Wye has been very silty recently and orthophosphate measurements have been through the roof during the spate. :sad:
 

mudsticks

Obviously an Aubergine
I know a reasonable amount about rivers and a claim to fame is that Fergal Sharkey tweeted about one of my papers! One of the key things missing in the discussion is climate change. Even if we clean up agriculture the legacy phosphorus in soils will continue to be delivered by increased runoff From wetter winters. Legislation like the water framework directive doesn’t incorporate climate change very well. TheEA do their best but workforce has been cut year on year. The private utilities are very variable, some are quite progressive others motivated only by shareholders.
There seems to be a bit of a buzz* around esturine and indeed marine mud banks atm, in some circles, and the large quantities of carbon that can be stored there.

* I say ' buzz' advisedly , as obv its kind of difficult to 'sell' mud as something to get excited about - as it is with soils - but awareness seems to be building.

Allowing rewetting, of some lower esturine areas has surely got to help with building more mud too ??

I'm proud to say that despite farming a very light sandy loam, on a slope, large quantities of which seem to end up in our local river and marine outflow from neighbouring land ,I've never had so much of a rivulet in the soil here.

Winter cover of green manure (OK and a few weeds) where theres not overwintering crops seems to keeps it all in place alright.

More farmers seem to be undersowing their late harvested maize with soil binding leys as well now - which is good to see - nuts really to let your means of production wash down the river like that :wacko:
 

mudsticks

Obviously an Aubergine
So, I'm bit of a an environmentally concerned kinda citizen, and note that thanks to the likes of Hugh Frankly-Eatsitall wild swimming and cold water bathing are very much de rigeur (mods: this means in fashion) at the moment.

Since last Summer the press has been publishing the occasional piece about algal blooms and polluted rivers, and then today I noticed a piece in the Grauniad detailing a new group: RiverActionUK....

Advisor: George Monbiot, so far, so predictable.
But the rest of the group are all deep Tory establishment types.
A former Environment Minister, Richard Benyon,
Ben Goldsmith
, DEFRA advisor and Zac's (MP) brother,
James Macpherson, former Deputy Chief Investment Officer of BlackRock’s Active Equity business managing assets of $280bn (employer until very recently of the most exalted evil one, George Osborne)
Isabella Gornall, former Policy Adviser to Zac Goldsmith MP, led the development of policy proposals to Government and managed his international environmental campaigns.



I could go on (there are more) but you can see for yourself at https://riveractionuk.com/about

Perhaps I am just a jaded old hippy, but these seem the strangest of bedfellows! That said, the blue cabal in the group all seem to know each other's former advisors etc etc so perhaps it's just a clever way to extract public funds to do some Tory greenwashing.

What does this fantastic community of low carbon transport minded two wheelers think?
I wouldn't claim to be overly sure about the political motivations here - its true that quite a lot of Conservatives, are also instinctively conservationists - many of them genuinely so from what I've encountered.

Even if it is in a 'this land is my land, and no others shall pass here ' kind of style

But also of course, there's the potential for some kind of fiscal interest too.

With our imminent departure from the CAP, and a redesign along the lines of a 'sustainable farming framework' going on that is supposed to replace it in terms of landowner / farmer support - Could this be a preemptive move on the part of Tory landowners and investors to see that schemes that benefit those existing landowners are put in place.

I mean if you're losing your area payments, but quite fancy being paid to plant trees for catchment services instead , then it would be a good idea to get onboard with a project that promoted , and financed such efforts yes ??

I dunno maybe I'm being horribly cynical here..

I'm sure they care muchly about the rivers and all the fishies* too though..

* that could be the other thing - their leisure fishing might be being impacted ??
 
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NeverFromConcentrate

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Location
Herefordshire
Hi Mudsticks,

I am inclined to agree. With area payments being reduced the quickest for the largest landowners (one in the eye for the Duke of Westminster!!!) I am sure within the tax-shielded agri-inheritance land community they will be looking at ways to maximise their income from the taxpayer for just owning the land. And let's face it, once imports of cheap food produced to lower standards kicks in, as is the plan as stated by Gove ("Brexit means cheaper food!") there won't be much point in employing farmers to produce expensive food that can't even be sold to the EU, and so low input things like tree growing will be very much on the cards - plant trees, mulch them (if they are lucky two years in a row!!!) and then sit back and wait for the public goods subsidies to roll in! After 30 - 50 years you can harvest them, by which time we will have come to our senses and rejoined the fight against Russia with our european pals, and domestic food production may even have become a priority once again....

I don't know who is more cynical, me or you, I suspect we could spend a few hours in the pub (after July) comparing notes!!

all the best
NfC

PS round here the EA is actually using satellite images as well as the reporting hotline to find and fine the worst offenders, especially with regard to soil erosion from winter run off. So much maize is being cultivated on riverside meadows now for the anaerobic digester plants that rivers and roads frequently run red after heavy rain. Short term gain for long term soil loss always seemed like perverse logic to me, but I gather some just will do anything for a twice annual Caribbean holiday....
 

mudsticks

Obviously an Aubergine
Hi Mudsticks,

I am inclined to agree. With area payments being reduced the quickest for the largest landowners (one in the eye for the Duke of Westminster!!!) I am sure within the tax-shielded agri-inheritance land community they will be looking at ways to maximise their income from the taxpayer for just owning the land. And let's face it, once imports of cheap food produced to lower standards kicks in, as is the plan as stated by Gove ("Brexit means cheaper food!") there won't be much point in employing farmers to produce expensive food that can't even be sold to the EU, and so low input things like tree growing will be very much on the cards - plant trees, mulch them (if they are lucky two years in a row!!!) and then sit back and wait for the public goods subsidies to roll in! After 30 - 50 years you can harvest them, by which time we will have come to our senses and rejoined the fight against Russia with our european pals, and domestic food production may even have become a priority once again....

I don't know who is more cynical, me or you, I suspect we could spend a few hours in the pub (after July) comparing notes!!

all the best
NfC

PS round here the EA is actually using satellite images as well as the reporting hotline to find and fine the worst offenders, especially with regard to soil erosion from winter run off. So much maize is being cultivated on riverside meadows now for the anaerobic digester plants that rivers and roads frequently run red after heavy rain. Short term gain for long term soil loss always seemed like perverse logic to me, but I gather some just will do anything for a twice annual Caribbean holiday....
I know, I try, and then invariably fail, not to get very cross about the maize for biomass travesty.

So using diesel + other inputs with consequent soil damage / carbon losses to produce feedstock for supposed environmentally freindly power generation...

The original intention was good perhaps, the execution terrible.


What we need (imho) is properly agro-ecology, biodiverse, mixed farming systems, producing our food, integrated alongside ecology..

In fact utilising, good soil management, nutrient recycling, ecology and contemporary sunlight (mostly) to produce that food.

Not 'rewilding' patches here and there with supposed 'sustainably intensified agriculture' elsewhere.

We could have a far better food production and supplies, at regional, and national level, and do all the good ecology sh1t too, and employment, and health benefits +++ other public goods, if only we could get out of our "food grows here, nature lives there" silo mindset.

It's not like lots of us aren't already quietly doing this stuff already, most of it is just common sense resource use, and some sound methodology.

But it's all a bit unglamorous (and unprofitable) for the high tech bods who want to patent, and sell us some whizz bang IP products.

Greenwaste compost, winter cover crops, homemade biochar, and soil conserving minimum tillage systems are a bit 'uncommodifiable' for the likes of Bayer et Al.

Where's the profit, in all that, for the 'extractive' middleman, and input manufacturer ??

So anyway, we'll see if this rivers thing gets anywhere.

But there are already, so many well intentioned, and sound thinking organisations all trying to help advance this transition towards better food farming, climate change solutions, and enhanced ecology.

Is another one going to make much difference??

Who after all. has the overarching lobbying power??

Us hairy agroecologists are getting our voices heard just a little more now, even in defra - funnily enough it was Gove who 'let us in' apparently in part cos he was bored of the NFU..

But it still most often feels like a David and Goliath standoff.

And of course you get accused of being 'anti tech' or 'anti science' which is total. bollix, but it's still regularly levelled at us. .

Oh well gotta keep on keeping on, I guess..

And yes, getting back down the pub, for a bit of light relief from it all now and then, would be very nice too :okay:
 
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NeverFromConcentrate

Well-Known Member
Location
Herefordshire
What we need (imho) is properly agro-ecology, biodiverse, mixed farming systems, producing our food, integrated alongside ecology..
You and I speak the same language!!!! had a hoot at the oxford real farming conference in Jan 2020, the online version was not quite as fun I found. But a great inspirational place to feel that we are not alone with our pursuing of compost, permaculture, chemical-free etc. We used to sell our surplus in the local town on fridays, and found, even though our (organically produced) prices were deliberately cheaper than the co-op round the corner for intensively produced food, a lot of the young mothers walking past to drop their kids at the school not only assumed we were going to rip them off, but just weren't that interested in getting fresh food from a 'farmer's market', I think possibly they perceived it as a middle class luxury thing. We resorted to giving away apples to their kids just to get rid of them. Of course the irony was that our best customers were the retired middle class cohort who were delighted to get such fresh local food.

Just getting round to trying to make our own biochar too from old peasticks, bean frames etc. We are all very new to our own agricultural journey, only starting three years ago, but the difference we notice already with the bird life now that we have untidy hedges (considered a crime by some round here!!) and scrubby bits around the place is extraordinary. At the same time though it can be really disheartening. We may only be doing what we can on our 4 acres, but a huge industrial dairy farm down the road on the flood plain is desperately trying to get planning continually (inspite of being on the flood plain) for a new uber-sheds and parlour, and have recently cut down a beautiful 2 mile stand of mature trees along the old railway line embankment that they also own, in order to turn every last square foot into rye pasture. Just makes me so sad! And they squirt AD digestate into their land which stinks to high heaven and if you have a look a day later all you can see is dead worms in amongst the grass. It's so weird. There are no other dairies I'm aware of within a 10 mile radius either. Something that wasn't the case 20 years ago, I'm told.

I think the strangest word in the rural lexicon is 'agronomist'. I am hopeful though that working with rather than against nature is beginning to really click in people's heads and possibly hearts too.

I'm not really against this new river group, hope they can influence at the highest levels if that is their pedigree. Just used to not getting my hopes up.

Can. Not. Wait for the pubs to reopen!!
 

mudsticks

Obviously an Aubergine
You and I speak the same language!!!! had a hoot at the oxford real farming conference in Jan 2020, the online version was not quite as fun I found. But a great inspirational place to feel that we are not alone with our pursuing of compost, permaculture, chemical-free etc. We used to sell our surplus in the local town on fridays, and found, even though our (organically produced) prices were deliberately cheaper than the co-op round the corner for intensively produced food, a lot of the young mothers walking past to drop their kids at the school not only assumed we were going to rip them off, but just weren't that interested in getting fresh food from a 'farmer's market', I think possibly they perceived it as a middle class luxury thing. We resorted to giving away apples to their kids just to get rid of them. Of course the irony was that our best customers were the retired middle class cohort who were delighted to get such fresh local food.

Just getting round to trying to make our own biochar too from old peasticks, bean frames etc. We are all very new to our own agricultural journey, only starting three years ago, but the difference we notice already with the bird life now that we have untidy hedges (considered a crime by some round here!!) and scrubby bits around the place is extraordinary. At the same time though it can be really disheartening. We may only be doing what we can on our 4 acres, but a huge industrial dairy farm down the road on the flood plain is desperately trying to get planning continually (inspite of being on the flood plain) for a new uber-sheds and parlour, and have recently cut down a beautiful 2 mile stand of mature trees along the old railway line embankment that they also own, in order to turn every last square foot into rye pasture. Just makes me so sad! And they squirt AD digestate into their land which stinks to high heaven and if you have a look a day later all you can see is dead worms in amongst the grass. It's so weird. There are no other dairies I'm aware of within a 10 mile radius either. Something that wasn't the case 20 years ago, I'm told.

I think the strangest word in the rural lexicon is 'agronomist'. I am hopeful though that working with rather than against nature is beginning to really click in people's heads and possibly hearts too.

I'm not really against this new river group, hope they can influence at the highest levels if that is their pedigree. Just used to not getting my hopes up.

Can. Not. Wait for the pubs to reopen!!
Good luck with it all..

But as you've witnessed you are not alone, in your endeavours.

Who knows you may even have been lucky enough to attend one of the sessions I was running at ORFC 2020. :angel:

I think awareness, and understanding is building, but it does feel like a bit of an uphill struggle sometimes.

Yes a lot of the small, and medium scale dairy farms have gone out of business in the last thirty years.

But if you look at the price of milk in the supermarket these days, and realise that even those farmers are often getting less than the price of production its not really any wonder, farmers get out is it ??

'Cheap' food isn't cheap, it's just had all the costs externalised onto someone, or something else - onto our rivers for example.
 
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