Why are we killing the Wye, and when will we stop?

Pollution in the Upper River Wye catchment : The Causes and Lessons for Campaigners working in other UK River Catchments.

Authors: Brian Morgan, Stephen Eades and David Levy – all Marinet members


The river Wye and its tributaries are in serious trouble. The main cause is the intensive farming of chickens and their manure, spread on local land and entering the rivers. This is one of England’s finest river systems, yet its levels of pollution are worsening and are now threatening to kill it. This report’s concern is as much with finding the solution as it is in defining the problem. Knowing the authors of this problem and their practices allows us to identify the solution. The authors are several.
1. Farmers, who have a right to farm and to maximise their income.
2. Regulators, the Environment Agency and planning authorities, whose responsibility it is
to ensure poultry waste does not cause pollution.
3. The Conservation agency, Natural England, responsible for protecting the river’s ecology.
4. The Government department : Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
DEFRA is responsible for the legal framework and for ensuring the nation’s food security.

After revealing the nature and depth of the problem in our report, we turn to our real concern and key question: what is the solution? The authors of the problem are also essential players in the solution, but there are two other principal parties as well. One is the national agricultural fertiliser manufacturers. This report reveals that nationwide intensive poultry farming can, through its manure and its recovery by anaerobic digestion, supply around 20% of the nation’s nitrate and 60% of its phosphate fertiliser needs. This valuable resource is a low energy source of raw material for the fertiliser industry, and its potential is unrecognised by both the poultry farmers and the fertiliser manufacturers. We highlight the need for all parties to start engaging in this creative, profitable solution which turns this poultry manure into a widely available national agricultural fertiliser, instead of a deadly pollutant.

The other key player in the solution is the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), created by Parliament in the 2021 Environment Act. At present the OEP’s work and purpose is untested, but Parliament has intended it to respond directly to the concerns of the public and non-governmental organisations whenever they feel that the institutions of government, like DEFRA and others mentioned above, are failing to implement the laws for which they are responsible, or what the OEP terms as ‘breaking environmental law’. Marinet has complained to the OEP — tell the OEP you support the complaint.  mailto:enquiries@theoep.org.uk

The message of our report is strongly focused on the solution, not just the problem. Farmers, fertiliser companies, the OEP, government and you — all can, and must, build the solution. Read on to learn exactly how this can be done, and how to make your own thoughts known.

Map of the Lugg, Arrow and Frome in the Upper Wye catchment

Map by B. Morgan


Background to this Study

Marinet1 has in recent time contributed to the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee’s study of Water Quality in Rivers2 and also contributed along with other campaigning organisations, notably SOS Whitstable (Kent)3, to secure changes to the UK Environment Act 20214 to address the systemic problem of human sewage pollution of UK rivers and coastal waters. In 2020 Marinet also published Sand, Sea and Sewage5, a study of sewage pollution of coastal bathing waters in England and how the full nature of this pollution is being misreported.

Marinet was formed by its members in 2002 and became a wholly independent limited liability company in 2014. Some of its members have been addressing the problem of sewage pollution of rivers and coastal waters since the late 1970s, see Part 2 of Sand, Sea and Sewage. At that time pollution of rivers and coastal waters with raw sewage and other pollutants was rife. It was widely tolerated by government. As a result river catchments, particularly in industrial areas, were essentially open sewers carrying human sewage and liquid industrial wastes. An example of how severe this pollution was is demonstrated by the condition of the River Mersey Basin in 1984 when the vast majority of rivers in the Mersey catchment6 were either in ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ condition (effectively biologically ‘dead’ or close to being so).

Legislation7, primarily driven by EU Directives which are now translated into UK law, has secured considerable improvements relative to the conditions prevailing in the 1980s. However since the privatisation of the water industry in 1989, and especially so in the last twenty years, there has been a serious lack of investment by the English water companies in new sewage treatment infrastructure. This missing investment should have been made in order to cope with England’s increasing population which has grown from 47 million in 1980 to 56.5 million in 2020, along with the urban development associated with this increased population. In addition the development of new chemicals and waste products, accompanied by a weakness in the methods for their sound disposal, has further eroded the improvements made in the 1980/90s.

The yardsticks for the measurement of pollution have changed in the period from 1980 to 2020. Nevertheless rivers in England are now recording 100% failure against an absence of chemical pollution, and only 14% of these rivers are achieving good ecological status8. Furthermore, standards in regulation have fallen due to a number of reasons9. As a result data compiled in 2020 is recording almost 1 in 5 storm sewage overflow pipes are discharging untreated sewage more than 60 times per year10. Also in 2020 water companies released untreated sewage into rivers and streams more than 400,000 times, and for more than three million hours11.

When Marinet undertakes its work, and particularly its research, we are constantly on a learning curve. Two matters came very clear to us when we were assembling and presenting our evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) study of Water Quality in Rivers. Until then, we had not fully appreciated their importance.

The first is that agricultural practices in England and Wales are, overall, of greater significance than discharges by the water companies as the reason why rivers do not achieve good ecological status, known by the Env. Agency who draws up this data as ‘RNAG’. Obviously this balance will tilt the other way in urban as opposed to rural areas, but in the countryside it is intensive agricultural practices for arable crops, and particularly intensive livestock farming for poultry and pigs — known as ‘factory farming’- which provide the main reasons for poor water quality in rural rivers. The House of Commons EAC’s final report appreciated this reality to some degree and summed it up as follows: [ref. footnote 2, page 11]
Sources of Pollution
13. In its annual reports on progress against the targets set in the 25 Year Environment Plan, DEFRA identifies the major pressures that cause water bodies to fail to achieve good ecological status. The most recent progress report indicates that after the physical modification of rivers (a factor unavoidable in many urban environments), the main three drivers preventing water bodies achieving good status are:

• Agricultural pollution from rural areas (affecting 40% of water bodies);
• Sewage and wastewater (36%);
• Run-off from towns, cities and transport, referred to as urban diffuse pollution (18%).

These proportions represent estimates for all inland waters in England: the balance of drivers will differ for each catchment and stretch of river. Sewage and urban diffuse pollution are likely to be the main pollutants in urban areas. In rural stretches of river, agricultural practice is likely to be the dominant form of pollution.
Of course the reasons why England’s major rivers do not achieve good ecological status (RNAG) will almost certainly be a combination of agricultural, sewage and wastewater, urban run-off and industrial discharges. However in rural areas it will almost certainly be agriculture, and particularly so for the tributary rivers in each catchment. Yet what puzzled us was why so many of these rural tributary rivers, which are the headwaters of the principal rivers, are not be achieving good chemical status in all cases? And nationally, why only 14% of rivers in England and Wales are achieving good ecological status?

Leading on from this we decided to look at a river of long standing importance and quality such as the River Wye — a traditional salmon river and a Special Area of Conservation along its entire length12. We asked the question: is the serious problem of poor water quality in the Lower Wye13 being reflected in any way in the Wye’s headwaters — specifically the rivers and brooks of the rivers Lugg, Arrow and Frome which form a substantial part of the Upper Wye’s catchment? If so, why and what is the character and cause of this pollution?

Incidentally, if you are wondering why Marinet, a marine organisation, is investigating these questions do not overlook the fact that all this pollution ends up in the sea and often with a profound impact on estuaries and sea bathing areas close to estuaries14.

Government and Citizen Science in the Upper Wye Catchment

A primary purpose of our study is to show how important local ‘citizen science’ organisations are in obtaining essential knowledge about our rivers. Without these organisations and their empowerment the future of English and Welsh rivers and the prospects for their improvement would be very bleak. So it is most important that we acknowledge from the outset the contribution that citizen groups and their ‘citizen science’ monitoring activities and analyses have made to this Marinet report, notably the Wye Salmon Association15, and also the Friends of the Upper Wye16, amongst others17.

This is not to say that ‘government’ in its many forms are not key figures too. They are and they come in different forms such as the local county planning authority, or the Environment Agency and National Resources Wales (in Wales) which both monitor water quality and issue and regulate pollution discharge permits, or indeed Natural England and Natural Resources Wales which are responsible for safeguarding the status of conservation areas such as the Wye SACSAC Special Areas of Conservation.

To be wholly fair, this report would not be possible without drawing heavily on their work too. Yet somehow the ‘system of government’ does not seem to work because, if it did, why would the River Wye presently be in its seriously polluted condition?

Thus it is our intention to show how the facts we have assembled here can be used by citizen groups elsewhere in England in order to hold the feet of ‘government’ to the fire, and how each group can assemble its own case with that objective. Although government has the power to change things, it is often too remote and insensitive. Therefore only when ordinary people insist on change will government find the resolve to make things change. At least, that is the theory about how things are most likely to work in a democratic system!

Whilst the Wye’s source is in the Welsh mountains at Plynlimon in Ceredigion and flows through Builth Wells, the main attention of our study is focused on the Upper Wye’s catchment in the area of the Rivers Lugg (Afon Llugwy, meaning ‘bright stream’) which rises in Radnorshire near Llangyllon, the Arrow which rises in Powys and joins with the Lugg south of Leominster, and the Frome which rises in Herefordshire to join the Lugg two miles north of where the Lugg has its confluence with the Upper Wye just south of Hereford.

A significant source of data in our study is provided by Gordon Green, Wye Salmon Association. This study has examined farming, particularly intensive poultry units (IPUs)18, in the Powys catchment (Lugg and Arrow) and we are very greatly indebted to his work.

Intensive Poultry Units [● IPUs] on the Rivers Lugg, Arrow and Frome in Upper Wye catchment

Data Source: Council for the Protection of Rural Wales

The Scale and Nature of the Pollution

Before we drill down into the nature and causes of pollution in the Lugg, Arrow and Frome catchment, we look first at the scale of it based on Env. Agency’s monitoring data19.

Table compiled by Brian Morgan, Marinet, using EA/DEFRA Catchment Data Explorer (see. ref.19).

How to read the Table : Chemical and Ecological Classifications for Lugg, Arrow and Frome in the Upper Wye, 2019, Defra.

Ecological Status in 5 Classes.

Data sources: RNAG Government data: www.gov.uk/government/publications/state-of-the-water-environment-indicator-b3-supporting-evidence/state-of-the-water-environment-indicator-b3-supporting-evidence .
Gordon Green, part I, page 10 : River Phosphate Aspects of Poultry, Farming in Powys – a Case Study, published by the Wye Salmon Association: www.wyesalmon.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/A-Study-of-Poultry-Farming-and-its-Impact-on-Water-Quality-in-the-Wye.pdf


Chemical Status based on compliance with an Environmental Quality Standard*. The Chemical Status of a watercourse is calculated by assessing a possible 52 different chemical elements (individual and groups of chemicals). Water bodies are classified as good or failing.


* EQS is an environmental quality standard for specific substances. An EQS sets a concentration threshold below which no adverse impact on the medium (e.g. water) occurs, and takes explicit account of available dilution at different discharge locations. Definition source: www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/environmental-quality-standard
1. Definition data source: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/environment-and-business/challenges-and-choices/user_uploads/perfluorooctane-sulfonate-and-related-substances-pressure-rbmp-2021.pdf
2 . Definition data source: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/++preview++/environment-and-business/challenges-and-choices/user_uploads/polybrominated-diphenyl-ethers-pressure-rbmp-2021.pdf>

As is evident from the foregoing Table on Chemical and Ecological Classifications pollution in the catchment of the Rivers Lugg, Arrow and Frome in the Upper Wye, based on Defra’s 2019 data (ref. 19), is widespread. One further set of diagrams helps to clarify this before we examine the causes. These diagrams compare data from 2013 through to 2019.


Ecological Classification of Lugg, Arrow and Frome Catchments, 2013 and 2014. Maps drawn by B. Morgan based on data from Environment Agency (Defra): Catchment Data Explorer: Lugg, Arrow and Frome Operational Catchment (see: ref 19).

Continued: Ecological Classification of Lugg, Arrow and Frome Catchments, 2015 and 2016. Maps drawn by B. Morgan based on data from Environment Agency (Defra): Catchment Data Explorer: Lugg, Arrow and Frome Operational Catchment (see: ref 19).

Continued: Ecological Classification of Lugg, Arrow and Frome Catchments, 2019. Maps drawn by B. Morgan based on data from Environment Agency (Defra): Catchment Data Explorer: Lugg, Arrow and Frome Operational Catchment (see: ref 19).

These diagrams illustrate the development of pollution, in some instances severe, in the watercourses of the Lugg, Arrow (Powys) and Frome (Herefordshire) catchments; and this prevalence and its severity is clearly worsening.

Knowing that this pollution is affecting both the chemical and ecological quality of the watercourses, the question must be: what is its cause? This is a worrying question, not least because this catchment is at the headwaters of the River Wye, a Special Area of Conservation (ref.12). The catchment’s use is agricultural and its drainage almost wholly rural, so its quality really ought to be pristine.

The implication so far has been that this is due to intensive poultry farming in the area. Therefore we need to examine this hypothesis further, and in some detail. For the detail we are particularly indebted to the work of Gordon Green, Wye Salmon Association (op. cit, ref.18).

Gordon Green has examined the character of farming in Powys and the animal manure disposal regimes of these farms within the county’s river catchments. Our area of study only mirrors this in part — the Lugg, Arrow and Frome and their confluence with the Upper Wye south of Hereford. The Frome catchment is actually in Herefordshire, but it displays similar characteristics to the Lugg and Arrow, and similarly flows into the Upper Wye at Hereford.

Traditional farming in this area (Powys) has been based on ruminant livestock (cattle and sheep, principally) and grazing of grass pasture along with associated silage production for winter feed. In terms of the manure disposal regime from this livestock, this has been back onto the land where the livestock graze and from which silage is drawn. This creates a nutrient load, primarily of nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P). Plant growth (grass) needs
nitrogen (as nitrate NO3-), phosphorous (as phosphate P2O5) and potassium (as potash K2O) and small amounts of trace minerals. Animal manure is rich in nitrate and phosphate.

Most soil has a limited capacity to store nitrate beyond what is dissolved into the soil’s moisture content, with the result that maintenance of a soil’s nitrate level requires regular replenishment. Whether it is applied as a manufactured chemical or as an organic animal manure, a crop (e.g. grass) will generally utilise between 50% to 70% of the nitrate, with the surplus dispersing following rainfall as run-off onto neighbouring land or into a watercourse.

Phosphate behaves differently. Whilst phosphate is taken up by plants in a similar way to nitrate, an application of phosphate will generally only result in around 10% being used straight away. The remainder will form compounds which bind to the soil which then stores it, with the soil acting like a ‘sponge’. However after a period of time if applications of phosphate are repeated continuously the soil does reach a point of phosphate saturation i.e. it will absorb no more. When this happens and because immediate plant use is low (around 10% of the application) almost the entire additional phosphate will be surplus and will leave the area as run-off onto neighbouring land or into a watercourse.

In pollution terms this becomes significant when the phosphate enters the watercourse. A river rich in nitrogen (due to run-off) will not form an algal bloom unless phosphate is present. Absence of phosphate is a limiter. But if phosphate becomes abundant in a river then the excessive nitrogen in the river will readily cause an algal bloom, with all the adverse environmental impact on the water quality accompanying an algal bloom20.

The amount of artificial fertilisers and organic manure from livestock which may be placed on land so as to prevent the problem of adverse impact on watercourses is regulated. Defra issues advice known as RB209 Nutrient Management Guide21. This states that for a normal grass pasture the addition of manufactured or organic nitrate should not generally exceed 80kgN/ha per annum, with an increase on this level of up to 130kgN/ha where the pasture is producing one or more silage crops. More strictly, in legal terms, this guidance states that the maximum nitrate application in any one year should not exceed 250kgN/ha.

For phosphate under RB209, the amount added to grass pasture should not generally exceed 20kg P2O5/ha per year, with an uplift where silage is also being cropped. Crucially, as will become clear, there is no maximum legal limit on the phosphate level as there is with the nitrate level.

As Gordon Green reveals in his study of farms in Powys (op. cit, ref.18) the traditional farming regime of cattle and sheep grazing, supported by cropping for winter silage, means that the organic manure returned by these farms to their fields does not exceed the recommended lower Defra levels for nitrate and phosphate. Thus traditional farming is effectively in nutrient equilibrium with the environment, i.e. no or virtually no run-off to watercourses. In these circumstances water quality remains high.

This balance is disturbed when poultry farming is introduced. The nitrate and phosphate levels in poultry manure are much higher than in traditional livestock. Gordon Green cites the following – see the table below. Compared to other animals, poultry manure is around 4 times as ‘rich’ in nitrate and phosphate. Also note, in poultry manure the ratio between N and P2O5 is 1.6: 1.

When a farmer wants to establish an IPU (intensive poultry unit) planning permission is required. Part of this application is a requirement to submit a manure management plan (MMP) which explains the disposal practice for this manure. This MMP is audited in the planning process by the Environment Agency in England and by National Resources Wales (NRW) in Wales. Once the planning application is granted, responsibility for the supervision of the manure management plan (MMP) falls to the local planning authority, not the EA or NRW. Also if the planning application is for more than 40,000 birds, the IPU needs a separate Environmental Permit which is issued by the EA/NRW. An Environmental Permit is an operating licence to check that the operation conforms with environmental laws.

Gordon Green (op. cit, Part II, ref.18) has established that 290 IPUs (intensive poultry units) were approved in Powys between 2000 and 2019; and that all the planning documents for applications since 2015 are available online, including their Manure Management Plans.

He has examined the Manure Management Plans (MMPs) for half (69) of those applications made in Powys since 2015. He found that 63 are using their own land for the disposal (spreading) of poultry manure, 6 are exporting it to neighbouring farms, and none are using anaerobic digestion as a treatment method. Thus all the dry poultry manure is going onto the land in the immediate vicinity of the IPUs without any additional treatment.

Further, Gordon Green found that all of the 69 MMPs which he examined contained calculations to prove compliance with the annual 250kgN/ha maximum legal limit, rather than the guideline and sustainable annual level of 130kgN/ha (RB209 Nutrient Management Guide).

National Resources Wales (NRW) approved every one of these MMPs solely on the basis of an application rate in compliance with this legal maximum limit 250kgN/ha. Also none of the MMPs approved by NRW considered the phosphate (P2O5) loading, or even considered where this excess phosphate would go.

Gordon Green established what Defra stipulates as the guideline and legal limit for the application of nitrate and phosphate to land. The Table below is based on Gordon Green’s reading of Defra’s RB209 Nutrient Management Guide (ref. 21) and his report for the Wye Salmon Association (op. cit, Part 1, page 6, ref. 18).

Defra: Annual recommended application of Nitrate and Phosphate to Grass Pasture

These application levels are important. Should dry poultry manure be applied at 130kgN/ha (i.e. Defra’s top guideline limit for nitrate) this will in turn mean a phosphate application of 81.25kg P2O5/ha. This is calculated on the basis that the ratio between nitrate and phosphate in dry poultry manure is 1.6: 1 — see earlier table above, based on G. Green. Phosphate rich poultry manure is, under these circumstances, therefore being applied when Defra’s annual guideline top limit for phosphate, utilising two silage cuts, is 65kg P2O5/ha
(ref. 21, Table 3 RB209 Nutrient Management Guide, Defra, and G. Green, op. cit, Part I page 6, ref.18).

However if dry poultry manure is being applied annually at the maximum permissible nitrate level of 250kgN/ha , as the NRW approved MMPs for Powys IPUs both suggest and permit, then this means that the amount of phosphate being applied at the same time is not 65 kg P2O5/ha but actually 156kg P2O5/ha. Again, this is using the N/ P2O5 ratio of 1.6: 1.

To be absolutely clear: this is happening when the guideline phosphate ceiling is 65 kg P2O5/ha. Furthermore, it is happening against a legal background where there is no legal limit for P2O5/ha. In other words, the maximum phosphate application is unregulated.

Therefore should the soil have reached saturation for phosphate due to earlier repeated application of poultry manure, 90% of this phosphate will go onto neighbouring fields or into the nearest watercourse. This then triggers an algal bloom in that watercourse should it already contains excess N (nitrate), again likely due to earlier applications of poultry manure.

So, the route by which the watercourses of the Lugg, Arrow and Frome catchments are being polluted is clear.

Traditional farming systems of ruminant livestock grazing — systems which were in nutrient equilibrium with the environment — have become severely overloaded with nutrients arising from poultry manure. This poultry manure is being applied almost exclusively to the land of the farms where it arises. And it is being done so repeatedly, up to and beyond the level of nutrient saturation.

These excess nutrients are then entering the watercourses of the catchment, and the Manure Management Plans for intensive poultry units licensed by EA/NRW permit this.

Before we examine the wider issues stemming from this reality, i.e. the role of regulators and of local and national government, along with what is needed to arrest this situation, we need to ask whether it is possible to determine the size — the scale and amount — of this nutrient load from poultry manure within the Lugg, Arrow and Frome catchment?

Size matters. Not just because it reveals the numerical amount of poultry manure and the nutrient load present in these tributary catchments of the River Wye, but also because it indicates the amount of organic manure that would be available to the agricultural industry if this manure were to be exported from these catchments to other parts of the country, thus potentially offering a national substitute for manufactured agricultural fertilisers.

So is it possible to get some idea of the annual nutrient load, in nitrate and phosphate, which the IPUs in the Lugg, Arrow and Frome catchments are producing? Using data assembled by Gordon Green (op cit, Part 2, ref. 18), the answer in broad terms is, yes.

The method used by Gordon Green is relatively straightforward. Poultry operations fall into one of four types. These are:

○ Poultry breeders which produce chicks, generally sold as day old chicks.
Broiler rearers (chickens for meat) which take these day old chicks and fatten them for 6 weeks, at which time they are slaughtered and sold as meat chickens at around 2.2kg in weight — a broiler unit will repeat this process 8 times a year.
Pullet rearers (rearing chickens for egg laying) which take day old chicks and rear them for 16 weeks, the age at which chickens start producing eggs.
Egg producers take the 16 weeks old chickens from the pullet rearers, and allow the chickens to produce eggs until yields fall after 12 to 18 months. Most eggs producing units are free range, as are organic producers. But this is a loose, almost notional term in the case of IPUs because these birds live nearly all of the time in large numbers inside sheds which merely have pop-holes in the walls to allow them day-time access to a field.

All of the above four farming types — breeders, broilers rearers, pullet rearers, egg producers — keep the poultry in large industrial sheds, so all are classified as intensive poultry units (IPUs).

The number of birds in each of these 4 project types vary, according to their type.

egg producers have units in multiples of 16,000 birds (organic units are smaller), with most egg producing projects in Powys being for 16,000 or 32,000 birds;
◦ both breeders and pullet rearers are generally in the 20,000 to 60,000 range;
broiler units can be huge, with projects in excess of 100,000 birds being not uncommon.

Gordon Green established there are 290 IPUs established in Powys and, using planning records, the respective numbers for each project type in Powys are: breeders: 9 – broiler rearers: 63 — egg producers: 195 — pullet rearers: 23 — Sum total: 290.

Based on this information, the number of birds in IPUs in Powys can be calculated as follows, with an average population in each project type also employed in the calculation:

Poultry numbers in IPUs in Powys, based on average population for IPU type

The next stage in calculating the volume (tonnage) of nitrate (N) and phosphate (P2O5) produced by poultry in Powys is a little more sophisticated. If you find yourself struggling with the detail of what follows, stick with it. The facts and the outcome are important.
Gordon Green explains this procedure as follows : “Nitrogen emissions from poultry are well documented and can be found for example in Table 3 of the NVZ guidance for farmers. These are numbers which underpin all the MMPs examined (manure management plans). From this value for N, we can use Tables 2.5 and 2.7 from RB209 (op. cit, ref. 21) to derive the corresponding P2O5 value. These numbers are shown in the following table.”
Note: the P2O5 value is calculated on the N to P2O5 ratio of 1.6: 1
(see earlier reference, derived from Defra RB209 Section 2, Tables 2.2, 2.4, 2.5 and 2.7).

Phosphate produced each year per 1000 birds by Project Type, table assembled from G. Green, Table 3: N & P emissions from different types of poultry

(op cit, ref. 18)

Gordon Green has also recorded the population of birds in Powys in each project type, using the number of IPUs in that project type, ref. above: breeders: 9; broiler rearers: 63; egg producers: 195; pullet rearers: 23 . Based on this it is then possible, also using Gordon Green’s Table 3, to calculate the nitrate and phosphate load produced per annum by the 290 IPUs in Powys, taking into account project type. This calculation is tabulated below:

Annual tonnage of Phosphate produced by IPUs birds in Powys

Thus the 290 IPUs in Powys are producing annually 2,146 tonnes of phosphate from their manure; and using the N/P conversion ration of 1.6:1, this equates to 3,433 tonnes of nitrogen similarly arising from this poultry manure.

We can now translate this into nitrate/phosphate production in our area of study – the Lugg, Arrow and Frome catchments of the Upper Wye. We have established, based on CPRW data1, that the number of IPUs in 2019 in our area of study is 91. Therefore using the same poultry project type breakdown, this translates into 674 tonnes of phosphate per annum and 1078 tonnes of nitrate being produced annually by IPUs in the Lugg, Arrow and Frome catchments.
Note: 91 IPUs is 31.4% of the Powys total, so 31.4% of the Powys phosphate production is 674 tonnes, and the nitrate production figure is 31.4% 3433 tonnes = 1078 tonnes.

If all this poultry manure is being applied to the land in our area of study, which is very likely (ref. G. Green’s analysis on MMPs in Powys), we can venture a hypothesis as to what amount may be entering annually into the watercourses of our area of study.

Assuming that 40% of the nitrate applied is converted to run-off (see earlier data of take up by nitrate by grass pasture), and assuming that half of that nitrate run-off is absorbed by surrounding land area, this leaves 20% of the nitrate run-off entering the watercourses. This amount of nitrate is 216 tonnes annually (note: 40% of 1078 tonnes = 431 tonnes, 50% of 431 tonnes = 216 tonnes).

Assuming that, following repeated applications of poultry manure, the soil has become saturated with phosphate (see the earlier data on excessive levels of phosphate application) and that only 10% of the applied phosphate is taken up straightaway by the grass pasture, this means a run-off of 90% for phosphate. Assuming only half of that run off is absorbed by soils in surrounding land because they too are approaching saturation due to the repetitive nature of this manure disposal practice, this supposes that half of the phosphate run-off is entering the watercourses. This amount of phosphate is 304 tonnes annually (note: 90% of 674 tonnes = 607 tonnes, and 50% of 607 tonnes = 304 tonnes).

Thus, based on this hypothesis and its line of reasoning, the watercourses of the Lugg, Arrow and Frome catchments are being heavily fertilised each year by IPU manure run-off; and given that phosphate is a trigger for the full utilisation of nitrate present in the aquatic environment, it is clear that this level of phosphate run-off may be causing a severe, nitrate driven, disturbance in the normal patterns of algal growth in these watercourses. This may lead to substantial disturbance in the ecological balance of these watercourses, especially where algal blooms develop and result in eutrophicationeutrophic Water (freshwater or saline) is said to be eutrophic when all normal life in it has died due to oxygen starvation. The process is usually caused by excess nutrients present in the water which causes an explosion in algal species (known as an algal bloom). As this algal bloom dies the decaying plant material (algae) falls to the bed of the watercourse where it is consumed by bacteria. This abundance of decaying material in turn causes a population explosion in the bacteria. However, bacteria (unlike plants) consume oxygen and the population explosion of bacteria strips all the dissolved oxygen out of the water with the result that all other aquatic species who are reliant on the dissolved oxygen for breathing (e.g. fish, larvae, insects) are asphyxiated and die. When this process occurs, a body of water is said to eutrophic. A body of water that is partially eutrophic is where this process (oxygen starvation) has fallen short and/or not yet reached its fullest extent..

Evidence that this is actually happening comes from the Environment Agency’s Ecological Quality classification and the decline in water quality for these watercourses between 2013-2019, see Ecological Classification tables 2013-2016 and 2019 earlier in this report. This evidence also suggests that the saturation of soils with phosphate is becoming an increasing reality, hence this deterioration in water quality.

In testing the strength of this hypothesis, one should also ask the following question:
Given that the catchment’s traditional farming regime is based on ruminant grazing by cattle and sheep whose nutrient animal manure input is broadly in balance with the area’s ecology, is there any other process in this catchment’s other than the arrival of intensive poultry manure which could plausibly be driving this marked shift in this catchment water quality?

As farming is almost the sole environmentally impactful economic activity in this wholly rural area, there appears to be no other cause. This being so, the absence of an alternative cause means that intensive poultry farming is the only logical explanation.

* * * * *

We need to turn towards identifying the solution. However before we do so, it is important that we have the full pollution picture otherwise the solution will be imperfect. Therefore we must first make one slight detour to examine a little more closely one other aspect of the pollution of this catchment. Namely, the nature of the Chemical Classification of these watercourses recorded in the table on page 8 of this report. This has shown that chemical pollution by PFOS (Perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PBDE (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers), measured in 2019 by the Environment Agency23, is prevalent.

PFOS and Water Quality in Lugg, Arrow and Frome Catchments, 2019

Maps: Drawn by B. Morgan, based on EA sampling data for 2019, see reference 23

The chemicals PFOS and PBDE are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They are not actually ‘organic’ as they are entirely man-made and the use of the word organic refers to the inclusion of carbon in their chemical structure. PFOS and derivatives of it (similar versions) are water soluble and are classed as a priority hazardous substance under the EU Water Framework Directive (EU, 2013). PBDE and its derivatives are not water soluble, and they accumulate in watercourse sediments and aquatic plants and animal life. Their persistent and bioaccumulative properties, along with their potential adverse effects on aquatic life and humans, has led to PBDE and its and derivatives being classified as a persistent organic pollutant under the Stockholm Convention. Both PFOS and PBDE have been used for a number of purposes, most notably as flame retardants.

The question is: why are they polluting the watercourses of this catchment and in such a widespread manner? This is a wholly rural landscape, agriculture is the only real economic activity, so where are they coming from? These watercourses should be entirely free of this kind of chemical pollution.

The significance of this reality is potentially far reaching. Therefore in trying to answer why these chemicals are present, it is necessary to ask whether they have been used in chicken litter in order to prevent fires? Our research has not been able to answer this question, but it is a possible explanation. If this hypothesis is correct, this means that these chemicals are present in poultry manure and are being spread onto the fields, i.e. released into the wider environment and finding their way to the watercourses of the catchment.

The Environment Agency offers no thoughts on this subject. Short of analysing IPU poultry manure, there is no way of knowing whether these chemicals are, or have been — in which case it is a legacy problem — present in the manure. A brief examination of other river catchments in the country using similar EA recorded data suggests that these chemicals are not present in watercourses in the same way as they are here. So there are grounds for this hypothesis. Nevertheless, this reasoning is a long way short of proof. The only other source/vector would be an aerial input (windborne and rainfall). This appears equally speculative, and underlines the necessity for a serious study of how this pollution is arising, especially given its persistent and potentially harmful nature.

Apart from concern about the polluting presence of PFOS/PBDE in the Lugg, Arrow and Frome catchments, knowing if poultry manure is the source of this pollution is essential because it is central to how we solve the well documented nutrient pollution (N and P2O5) which is clearly severe and worsening.

The Solution to Pollution caused by Intensive Poultry Farming

The solution has a number of essential features. We consider each in turn.

Proceeding from the assumption that the intensive poultry units in this catchment and the UK generally are unlikely to cease operating or to be scaled back substantially, one of the primary questions therefore is what to do with this poultry manure if spreading it on the fields, as happens at present, were to be forbidden for sound and pressing ecological reasons?

Poultry manure is an organic (animal based) fertiliser, particularly rich in nitrate and phosphate. Therefore it has potential to be exported from this catchment — and any other river catchment experiencing similar problems due to IPUs — to be used as part of the national supply of agricultural fertiliser.

Such a strategy is contingent of the following factors. Firstly, that chemicals like PFOS/PBDE are absent. Secondly, that the manure receives anaerobic digestion in order to kill pathogenspathogens A virus, bacterium or parasite which causes disease is a pathogen. Disease causing pathogens live in the environment, and both humans and animals are hosts to them. Pathogenic viruses, bacteria and parasites are present in sewage, originating from humans and animals, and thus it is essential that sewage is given proper treatment in order to disable (kill) these pathogens before the end-products of sewage treatment (solids and water effluent) are returned to the environment. arising from IPU husbandry, particularly anti-microbial resistant pathogens (AMR). Thirdly, that there are national facilities to convert this manure to a general purpose fertiliser and that the quantities of this manure from IPUs nationally make such a process financially viable. We consider each of these points below.

1. Absence of Chemicals: Whether poultry manure is the source of the PFOS/PBDE pollution of these watercourses is an unanswered question. However the manure management plans (MMPs) which accompany every planning application could play a central role in this. They are approved at the planning stage by the Environment Agency/National Resources Wales, so it ought to be a stipulation of approval that poultry manure for reuse as a fertiliser must be free of these chemicals and indeed any other toxic chemical contaminant. To the best of our knowledge, this stipulation does not apply at present. Whether it is a requirement of the Environmental Permit issued by the EA/NRW to IPUs larger than 40,000 birds is not known either and clearly requires further research; and, if is not a requirement, it must become so.

Whilst manure management plans are signed off by the EA/NRW at the planning approval stage, a significant contributory factor may actually be that MMPs are regulated thereafter by the Local Authority. It is doubtful that the Local Authority either does a regular audit of the delivery of MMPs or that it has the capability and resources to do so. Thus we suspect that the reality is, once issued, manure management plans and their operation are largely unsupervised.

It is not sound practice for responsibility in these matters to be split between two regulatory authorities. This is a recipe for confusion and poor governance. It is known that the EA has lost two-thirds of its budget over the last ten years24, and it is known that Local Authorities operate in a very tight financial environment. Therefore the strong suspicion must be that there is clear regulatory failure in this specific sphere of oversight of the MMPs. Equally important, it is difficult to recommend that poultry manure should play a central role in fulfilling the nation’s agricultural fertiliser requirements if the integrity of this manure is unknown and unchecked.

Hence, on this first count, there are significant unanswered questions and potential regulatory shortcomings. The overall solution requires these are directly addressed.

2. Anaerobic Digestion: Gordon Green in his study of IPUs in Powys found that anaerobic digestion of poultry waste appears to be non-existent. Anaerobic digestion sounds technical, but the reality is straight forward. It is a fundamental procedure in the treatment of any faecal waste, whether human or animal. It simply requires the containment of the faecal solids in a sealed, heated vessel where oxygen is absent so that anaerobic bacteria — bacteria which do not require oxygen — can eat (digest) the organic content and in so doing kill most of the original bacteria and viruses, some of which are benign and some pathogenic. If the temperature in the vessel reaches 70°C then pasteurisation also occurs, meaning that the resulting digestate, which is rich in nitrate and phosphate, is free of all bacteria and viruses.

Running animal and human faecal waste through anaerobic digesters assures a safe end product. A by-product of the anaerobic procedure is methane which, if captured, can be used to create the required temperature within the digester, and then again to implement a final additional stage to lift the temperature to70°C in order to ensure the destruction of all pathogens. In the case of intensive farming units this latter point is very important. Whether the intensive units are for poultry or other farmed livestock, it ensures that any anti-microbial resistant (AMR) pathogens are 100% neutralised should they have developed as a result of the continuous use of antibiotics made necessary by the crowded nature of the animals’ living conditions.

Anaerobic digesters, with an added pasteurisation stage, ought to be the default procedure for treating animal manure from intensive livestock units, replacing the spreading the untreated manure straight onto fields. If this were so, then the problem of run-off would be addressed as it means that the pathogenpathogens A virus, bacterium or parasite which causes disease is a pathogen. Disease causing pathogens live in the environment, and both humans and animals are hosts to them. Pathogenic viruses, bacteria and parasites are present in sewage, originating from humans and animals, and thus it is essential that sewage is given proper treatment in order to disable (kill) these pathogens before the end-products of sewage treatment (solids and water effluent) are returned to the environment.-free manure can be processed into a standard, universally available agricultural fertiliser for use elsewhere. This fertiliser will be organic in nature, have a lower carbon footprint relative to artificially manufactured fertilisers, and if not contaminated by chemicals (such as PFOS/ PBDE) will be a genuinely grade A product. Therefore one has to ask: does it not make sense for manure management plans, led by the thinking and action of central government and farmers themselves, to be embracing with some speed and enthusiasm the universal use of anaerobic digestion for all animal waste?

So, on this second count, farmers and the government and regulators really need to get their act together. They need to start thinking ecologically. They also need to start thinking how to maximise economic opportunity.

3. National Agricultural Fertiliser: Could animal manure, free of pathogens and chemical toxins, really play a significant role in supplying the nation’s need for agricultural fertilisers?

The evidence, upon preliminary inspection, suggests the answer is yes.

Let’s look at some broad figures. The amount of nitrate used each year in the UK by agriculture is c.1 million tonnes, and the amount of phosphate used similarly is c.186,000 tonnes25. We know (ref. G. Green’s study of Powys – see page 16 above) that 8.8 million chickens are producing c. 3,433 tonnes of nitrate and c. 2,146 tonnes of phosphate from their manure.
We also know, very broadly, how many chickens and other livestock animals, are being reared by intensive husbandry in the UK, see details below:

Individual and Total Levels for livestock animals being reared intensively indoors in the counties of England. Source of this table and the following: CIWF, 202126

Note: This data has a margin of error. Regarding the methodology of its compilation, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) state: “Compassion carried out a comprehensive data search of poultry, dairy, and pig farms in the United Kingdom in order to, literally, put factory farming on the map. Information on farming systems was gathered using a combination of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, planning documents, industry publications, feed company literature, equipment suppliers, farm websites, on-location verification and other sources.

“There is little publicly available information on the type of production system used on-farm. However for farms that house more than a set number of animals, a pollution permit is required by law. This applies to farms that house more than: 40,000 chickens, 2,000 pigs and/or 750 sows. Pollution permits issued to farmers by the four UK Environment Agencies include information on farm type and number of animals housed; we incorporated this data into the map, including numbers of indoor-reared farm animals only (free range animals are not included in these numbers).”

You will have probably noted that Gordon Green and CIWF estimate the number of intensively farmed poultry birds in Powys to be different figures, nearly 9 million in the case of Gordon Green and 3 million by CIWF. This difference underlines the scarcity of accurate information and the roundabout and complicated way both have had to go in order to obtain their figures. This begs the question: why is this information not readily available from government and the regulators, be that DEFRA or the Local Authorities and the EA/NRW? The reality is that that they cannot or will not reveal this. It leaves one wondering whether government has a grasp of the practices it is licensing and allowing for feeding the nation?

Be that as it may, the question concerning us at this point is the amount of nitrate and phosphate that these intensive poultry units are producing nationally and, if processed to sound standards environmentally and health-wise, could that nitrate and phosphate then serve as an agricultural fertiliser in quantities which are nationally significant?

We suspect that the Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) figures for intensively reared livestock are substantial underestimates of stock numbers. Therefore in the case of IPUs in Powys, we are basing our reasoning on Gordon Green’s data. However in relation to national figures we do rely on the Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) figures which are, although clearly only partially documented, the only nationally published figures available.

Following this course, this means that the 8.8 million poultry birds in Powys are producing annually circa. 3,433 tonnes of nitrate and c. 2,146 tonnes of phosphate from their manure, see earlier methodology relating to these figures’ calculation. This being so, and knowing that the UK number of birds is c.153 million based on CIWF figures, this means that in the UK intensive poultry units are producing around 60,000 tonnes of nitrate from their manure annually (methodology for calculation: 8.8 million birds = 3,433 tonnes nitrate per annum; if the total UK population of IPU birds is 153 million, then the calculation is: 153 million ÷ 8.8 million = 17.4; 17.4 million x 3,433 tonnes = 59,733 tonnes). Thus given that the annual UK agricultural use of manufactured nitrate is 1 million tonnes23 this means that the poultry manure produced annually by IPUs is c. 6% of the total annual UK use of agricultural nitrate.

Actually the nitrate figure produced by IPUs in the UK as calculated here is very likely an underestimate, given that CIWF figures for the number of poultry birds in IPUs in Powys is both clearly less that Gordon Green’s figure and also that CIWF admit that their figures do not record the number of IPU birds in several counties of the UK.

If Gordon Green’s figure for the number of birds in IPUs in Powys is the more accurate, then this difference is 3 times greater than the CIWF figure. If that difference (x3) is applied to the CIWF’s UK total figure, then IPU birds are producing annually c.180,000 tonnes of nitrate (59,733 x 3) which is equivalent to 18% of the total annual UK use of agricultural nitrate. Either way, IPUs are producing significant amounts of agricultural nitrate. Further if faecal manure from intensive pig units were to be added into these calculations and were similarly given anaerobic digestion and was free from chemical toxins, then the contribution which intensive livestock farming units as a whole could make in the provision of a raw material for the UK’s agricultural nitrate production is clearly significant.

In the case of phosphate production, UK agricultural use is c.186,000 tonnes per annum (ref.25). Using the same methodology as outlined above, Gordon Green’s figures for Powys leads to a national phosphate figure of 37,340 tonnes per annum (153 million ÷ 8.8 million = 17.4; 17.4 x 2146 tonnes = 37,340 tonnes). This is 20% of the annual manufacture and use of phosphate in the UK. Once again, if we take the CIWF poultry population figures to be an underestimate, then it is possible that IPU faecal phosphate production is around 60% (20% x 3) of the UK’s annual agricultural requirement.

Thus, on the third of our three counts for turning IPU manure into a raw material for use as an agricultural fertiliser, we are talking about a substantial potential for the UK fertiliser industry arising from IPU poultry manure. If certain health and ecological considerations are met, this manure offers a significant source of raw material, and its carbon footprint is likely to be considerably less than its chemically manufactured counterpart27.

Pollution in the Upper Wye : Is a Solution Deliverable?

That the Upper River Wye catchment will be allowed to languish in it’s currently severely polluted, near deadly condition with all the consequences for the river downstream and the loss of the entire River Wye as a gem of nature is a prospect almost too appalling to contemplate. But that is now the reality which confronts us.

Can the path to this appalling version of the future be avoided and corrected? And if so, how is it to be done?

We have demonstrated the cause of this precipitous decline in water quality and its consequential impact on the aquatic natural world of this catchment. Not only is water quality consistently Moderate to Poor throughout the area of study, but the status of this upper catchment as a Special Area of Conservation (ref. 12) and as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSISSSI Site of special scientific interest)28 is being threatened in a very fundamental sense. Equally importantly, we have also demonstrated how poultry manure and its environmentally damaging disposal practices are amenable to a new form of management, and that that this new form of management can turn intensive livestock manure into a significant resource as a high quality agricultural fertiliser for use by the nation’s farmers.

To say that the solutions are not available is simply not true. They are, but do we have the will to deliver them? That is the key question. And if the answer to this question is affirmative, who amongst us will deliver this? If we fail to do this we are looking at the death of the river Wye. That is not too hard a statement. This foreseeable outcome is already clear.

So who is going to deliver on this resolve to clean-up the Wye and to eliminate the causes of its death?

Let’s look at the candidates to see how likely it is that they will engage in this, whilst noting that the character of their behaviour to date has been one of disengagement. This is largely why the problem exists.

First of all, the farmers. Are they likely to implement the change, especially given that they know that certain amongst them are the original cause of the problem?

To be fair to them, we need to look at the problem from their perspective. Traditional livestock farming in this area which raises sheep and cattle on an open field system may have many attractive features as a way of life, but it is never going to make the farmer particularly prosperous, financially speaking. A certain number of acres, say 100 acres (40 hectares), is always going to be able to support a finite number of cows and/or sheep, and the land is not suitable for arable crops. These facts are an economic limiter. Then around 20 years ago the possibility of intensive farming arrived on the scene, especially of poultry.

As a very rough rule of thumb (illustrative, rather than definitive) 1 acre will support 1 cow throughout a year29 and 1 acre will support 2 sheep30. Whereas 1 acre using intensive poultry farming units will support around 300,000 birds31. Thus one-eighth of an acre will support roughly 37,500 birds. Thus it is immediately obvious that this difference in stocking density per acre can make intensive poultry farming very attractive. In short, a traditional farmer can virtually continue to farm the same number of cows on his farm (100 acres) whilst intensively farming nearly 40,000 birds on just one-eighth of 1 acre of the farm — an economic proposition which may seem very attractive to some.

If a farmer opts for this and installs an IPU and is able to dispose (spread) all the poultry manure legally onto the 100 acres of the farm — ref. the Manure Management Plan (MMP) approved by the EA/ NRW and the Local Planning Authority — then the practicalities and investment requirements of an IPU are made even more attractive. So is it surprising that many farmers in the Upper Wye catchment, as elsewhere in the UK, have decided to invest in intensive poultry farming, given that such farming practices are entirely legal?

One potential brake on this world of IPUs is the possibility that the manure management regime, licensed by the EA/NRW and LPAs, is not environmentally and ecologically fit for purpose. The evidence for this conclusion is abundant, as we have seen. Therefore will farmers, being aware of these environmental consequences, either close down or scale back their IPUs, or convert to alternative options for managing their poultry waste?

The principal alternative to field spreading of manure is offered by anaerobic digestion and then selling the product (digestate) to national agricultural fertiliser manufacturers. To be realistic, this seems unlikely at the present time. Why engage in apparently more costly waste disposal practices when the authorities are clearly prepared to license the ‘cheaper and simpler’ option of field spreading? In any case, if the farmers do make the investment in anaerobic digesters the prospect of selling the product (nitrogen and phosphate digestate) to national fertiliser manufactures seems daunting, to say the least. These manufactures are committed to large capital investment in artificial (i.e. non-animal) fertiliser production (see ref. 27). They are therefore not equipped, nor interested.

Thus from the farmer’s perspective, it is very easy to say that the alternative to spreading the poultry manure on the land is a non-starter, both practically and economically. To compound matters, neither the EA/NRW nor the LPAs or the commercial fertiliser manufactures are showing any engagement with such an idea. Result, the rivers die.

The farmers, assuming they still care, are in a hapless position and have no other way to proceed. Unless of course they quit intensive poultry farming. For people of good will, this comes very close to Einstein’s definition of madness: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’ This comparison seems fair because IPU farmers seem to be shutting ecological reality out of their consciousness, hoping that it will all somehow come right.

This may be an inaccurate characterisation of the local and wider farming community. Maybe there are farmers who can see the economic and ecological sense of anaerobic digestion and are therefore prepared to invest in facilities which can handle the entire poultry manure output in their catchment, and negotiate an arrangement with the national agricultural fertiliser manufactures. This is a model that could be repeated all around the UK. Private enterprise rather than a government ‘nationalised intervention’ could genuinely take the lead. Such an outcome is certainly in accord with free market economic principles. The only question is, do these principles actually work in this case?

The opportunity exists for farmers and private enterprise to prove that they are in tune with the new emerging ecological basis of economic thinking. The challenge for them — and indeed to all of us who eat their chickens and so wish to reverse the Wye’s descent into death by our own hands — is: will we assist farmers to change?

Now to the matter of others with responsibilities, and who are capable of solving this.

Key amongst these are the regulators — EA/NRW, LPAs and the government in the form of DEFRA, along with the new Office of Environmental Protection (created by the Environment Act 2021 and whose tagline on their website is “The Office for Environmental Protection (The OEP) is a new public body. We protect and improve the environment by holding government and other public authorities to account.”32. Also in this camp are the conservation agencies, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Natural England / National Resources Wales which, although all separate bodies, essentially work to a common brief under statute law. All of these regulators would like to be seen as the guardians of the environment and the natural world. Are they in the case of the Wye?

We have already seen that the Environment Agency and National Resources Wales (EA/NRW) and the Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) are approving Manure Management Plans for intensive poultry units when the evidence of the adverse consequences is known to them — they are testing the water quality and are responsible for responding to those results. Yet they are blithely approving new IPUs, and are undertaking no cumulative assessment of the existing impact of IPUs to inform future decision-making. In the case of the LPAs, they are failing to deliver any supervision of manure spreading to land.

So the charge being laid before them here is that they, the ‘police’, are ignoring the ‘crime’. Marinet has noted a report33 in the national press, 2nd March 2022, which states that the Environment Agency has, in the case of pollution of watercourses, reduced the levels of prosecution and other enforcement action. This press report suggested that in the case of watercourses experiencing the most serious level of pollution (known as Category 1 cases) the levels of prosecution or other enforcement action have become almost non-existent, and similarly so in cases of lesser levels of pollution (Category 2, 3 and 4 cases). Marinet decided to test the truth of this assertion and filed a Freedom of Information request to which we received a full reply on 11th May 2022. This reply is recorded below. For this reply we requested the EA to complete Tables for each pollution category (1 to 4) for the years 2011 to 2021, inserting into those tables:

It is to be noted how in the final column — Total Number of Incidents resulting in No Further Action — the EA affixed an asterix in their reply, see below. The advice from the EA regarding this asterix was that their recording procedure across the country (England) did not obligate an entry under the ‘No Further Action’ category, and so most case in this category were not recorded as being so when this was in fact the outcome.

Thus when reading these tables, unless the case was entered into the ‘Incident resulting in a Prosecution’ column or into the column titled ‘Incidents resulting in an Alternative Sanction’ (e.g. warning letter etc) where there is an obligatory listing for such outcomes under the EA’s recording procedure, it is logical to believe that all of these ‘non-recorded’ cases are actually entries in the ‘No Further Action’ column.

Marinet’s Freedom of Information reply from the EA is referenced: NR256375 . The following are the populated tables as received from the EA.

*Designated (officially) as NFA on enforcement recording systems.

Thus, if we take the year 2021, we can see that:
Category 1 cases: 10% resulted in a prosecution, 5% resulted in an alternative sanction, whilst 85% received ‘No Further Action’.
Category 2 cases: 2% resulted in a prosecution, 12% resulted in an alternative sanction, whilst 86% received ‘No Further Action’.
Category 3 cases: 0% resulted in a prosecution, 12% resulted in an alternative sanction, whilst 88% received ‘No Further Action’.
Category 4 cases: 0.01% resulted in prosecution, 7% resulted in an alternative sanction, whilst 93% received ‘No Further Action’.

In other words, even in a Category 1 pollution of a watercourse, only 1 in 10 cases will be prosecuted, whilst is the lesser categories — which are still pollution incidents of varying seriousness — no prosecutions effectively occur at all, and any other sanctions are minimal.

In the case of all Categories in 2021 combined — 16,524 incidents — the prosecution rate was 0.07%. With those odds, is it small wonder that perpetrators of pollution are unlikely to lose any sleep over their environmental and ecological misdemeanours? And is it surprising that across England water quality is so poor — only 14% of rivers in 2021 attaining ‘good ecological status’ (ref 8). The feature of the 2011-2021 results is their consistency. This pattern of no prosecution appears to be the result of policy. It could be due to incompetence, or a lack of resources. But even if this is true, a 10 year time period is surely sufficient to correct such a pattern of dysfunction.

If the cause is policy, i.e. a conscious decision to allow this level of pollution, then the origin of that policy could lie within the Environment Agency or, more likely, with the Agency’s funding and supervisory department of government, DEFRA. To test this latter hypothesis, it would be useful to see whether the other regulators, the Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) and the conservation Agencies (JNCC/NE), are taking a firmer line.

In the case of the LPAs, they have responsibility to supervise the poultry manure management plans once planning consent has been granted. If the IPU is above 40,000 birds then an Environmental Permit (EP) is also required. This is issued and supervised by the EA/NRW, but it does not appear that the terms of an Environmental Permit amount to a new home for the supervision of the implementation of manure management plans. Gordon Green has observed (op. cit, ref. 18) that LPAs appear not to exercise their specific duties in the supervisions of MMPs. Further research would be required to substantiate this assertion, but at the moment there is no evidence disproving it.

Turning to the conservation Agencies, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is responsible for the designation of the Wye SAC. The Wye is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and SSSI designation rests with Natural England.

A Special Area of Conservation results from EU law now incorporated into UK law and addresses conservation assets — habitats and species — considered to be of the ‘greatest value’, whereas SSSIsSSSI Site of special scientific interest result from UK legislation and encompass a broader range of important conservation habitats and species. Management and supervision of both SACsSAC Special Areas of Conservation and SSSIs falls to Natural England and National Resources Wales, with some local exceptions.

The Wye river system is a SAC/SSSI (ref.12) because of its physical nature and ability to supports a particular range of valued aquatic plants and animals. That it is able to do this is largely due to its exceptional water quality. The plants are several Water-crowfoot species, Flowering rush, Lesser water-parsnip and Curled pondweed, and the animals include White-clawed crayfish, Sea lamprey, Brook lamprey, River lamprey, Twaite shad, Atlantic salmon, Bullhead and Otter. All of the foregoing species are dependent on water quality that does not fall below the ‘Good’ ecological classification (see page 8 of this report).

Therefore when water quality does fall below ‘Good’, the SAC/SSSI falls into what is termed ‘unfavourable conservation status and in immediate need of improvement’.

Action on this is the responsibility of NRW in Wales and NE in England. Whilst it is likely that real concern exists within these professional conservation agencies and that these matters are being discussed within their corridors, there has been little action on the ground.

To be wholly fair, Natural Resources Wales has issued a statement in December 2020 which identifies a number of causes for the decline in water quality in the whole Wye river system, one such cause being phosphate pollution34. In their 2020 statement and their Wye SAC Compliance Assessment report35 NRW say:

“NRW will work with planning authorities in the Wye catchment — Powys, Brecon Beacons Natural Park and Monmouthshire to help them understand what the findings of the investigation could mean for their planning processes.

“The ultimate aim will be to ensure that any new development does not adversely affect phosphate levels in rivers. In practice this will mean that each and every project, plan or permit will have to demonstrate that they have a neutral, or better impact on reducing the phosphate levels in the Wye and its tributaries.”

However this assertion rather overlooks the fact that over the last 20 years NRW has been consistently approving IPU Manure Management Plans which fundamentally challenge pollution guidelines and has outlined no proposals that would rescind these MMPs or lead to alternative methods of poultry manure management. In the case of Natural England there is no public statement of concern, nor any other published insight into their response and course of action.

Thus the Wye river system, despite its SAC/SSSI status, remains in jeopardy.

Why are JNCC, EA/NRW and the Local Planning Authorities falling down in their duty? It cannot be financial gain because they are public authorities, although conversely it might be financial poverty. It is unlikely to be incompetence because the staff of these authorities are professional and employed to implement legislation and, as a general rule, are people of integrity. Which all leads back to the hypothesis that the cause of their inaction and their deficient decision-making is due to policy. If this is so, what is the origin of such policy ? In particular, what purpose and it’s objectives have such great importance that it leads to a policy which is prepared to kill a jewel like the Wye?

To answer this, we have to look at government at the highest level. This is the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA. This government department is responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, agriculture, fisheries and rural communities.

The department has the authority to supervise, if not directly control, all of the foregoing regulatory authorities and agencies. It formulates the legislation which establishes them. It is highly influential, both with formal powers and informal influence, in appointing the Boards which run them, and it provides the lion’s share of their funding via the public purse. If DEFRA wishes something to be so in policy terms, it is not easily contradicted.

So if DEFRA is influencing policy at the EA with respect to the prosecution policy of pollution incidents, if DEFRA is giving its assent to the approval by the EA of manure management plans (MMPs) when such approval is clearly leading to pollution, if DEFRA is turning an uninterested eye towards Local Planning Authorities when LPAs are failing to supervise those MMPs, and if DEFRA is prepared to go along with what appears to be a reluctance by the statutory nature conservation agencies to protect the ecological quality of the Wye’s river system, then the question must be: Why is DEFRA doing this?

A clear answer to this question would be available if the authorities to which DEFRA is accountable, namely Parliament and the Office of Environmental Protection, had asked DEFRA this question. In the case of Parliament, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee in its 2021 report on Water Quality in Rivers (ref.8) spent much time examining the role of the water companies and the EA regarding the management and treatment of human sewage, but failed to explore the question of agricultural manure – other than to note the pre-eminence of agricultural practices as a primary cause of river pollution. The House of Lords has not undertaken any initiative of its own; and, in a more partisan party-political context, the House of Commons has not debated this issue on the floor of the Chamber beyond individual MPs noting it.

The other authority to which DEFRA is accountable is the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). It was established under the Environment Act 2021. The OEP was set up in mid-2021 and is now operational. It defines its purpose as:36


You can complain to us if you think that a public authority has broken environmental law.

A public authority is any person or organisation carrying out activities of a public nature, including:
• government departments and ministers
• agencies of government
• local authorities (county councils, district councils, unitary authorities, and parish councils)
• water companies
• harbour authorities

The two most common ways in which a public authority could fail to comply with environmental law are:
• failing to take proper account of environmental law when carrying out its activities, for example not carrying out an environmental impact assessment
• unlawfully exercising, or failing to exercise, any activities it has to carry out under environmental law, for example not properly regulating environmentally harmful activities it is responsible for licensing.

Examples of environmental law include those covering:
• air pollution
• water pollution
• contaminated land
• nature conservation
• waste and resource use
• climate change
• environmental assessment and monitoring

Those public authorities accountable to the OEP for “unlawfully exercising, or failing to exercise, any activities it has to carry out under environmental law, for example not properly regulating environmentally harmful activities it is responsible for licensing” [emphasis in bold added by Marinet]” are DEFRA, the Environment Agency, Local Authorities, JNCC and Natural England. It appears that what is happening in the Wye river system is a matter of direct concern to the OEP. To date, this hypothesis has not been tested. The OEP is open to being approached by any citizen or non-governmental organisation.

DEFRA has not been challenged by either Parliament or the OEP over its accountability for its conduct in the Wye river system. Hence any public knowledge about DEFRA’s true intentions in this sphere is unknown.

There is a reasonable hypothesis to be explored here. DEFRA is responsible for environmental protection, food production and standards, and for agriculture. DEFRA has designed a framework which permits intensive livestock farming and DEFRA has designed the framework which governs its day to day operation and regulation.

This means that DEFRA must be aware that intensive farming of poultry and disposal of its faecal waste are central to what is happening in the Wye river system. DEFRA must be aware of the adverse impact which this livestock system is having on the local environment. And, as the presiding government department superintending both food production and the environment, it has the ultimate responsibility to put matters right when things are go wrong. In short, the buck stops with DEFRA.

So if DEFRA is turning a blind eye to this dysfunctional farming system, and all the evidence supporting the proof of this dysfunction, why would DEFRA be doing this?

The answer is probably: national food policy. In more simple terms, DEFRA is the Ministry for Food. It is responsible for seeing that the nation can be fed, and in a way that is affordable to people’s incomes. This means that one of the key questions, amongst many others (e.g. environmental impact, quality and safety of food, its nutritional content, etc), is: what is the price at which food can be produced and sold?

In the case of a whole intensively farmed (IPU) chicken sold in a British supermarket, the price is presently (2022) around £2.00 per kilo. This chicken has been reared indoors in sheds where each chicken being allowed roughly 1.5 square feet of space, and under these conditions chickens have to be constantly dosed with antibiotics to prevent disease.

In contrast, an organic chicken will cost around £8.00 per kilo. This chicken will be allowed outside and experience inside space of at least 10 square feet per bird. Generally speaking, antibiotics will not be required.

So in the quest for ‘affordable food’ DEFRA knows that IPU chickens cost c. £2.00 whereas an organic chicken costs c. £8.00, and the only way the price can be kept at an ‘affordable’ level for the nation at large is to use intensive farming units. Hence, the reality is that now around 95% of all chicken meat37 produced in the UK is being done so in IPUs of the type documented earlier in this report.

Given these facts we can develop the hypothesis further: DEFRA is supporting, probably designing, a cheap food policy which, in the case of chickens, means creating the legal and regulatory framework for IPUs which it then superintends as the presiding government department. Moreover, from the standpoint concerning damage to the ecology and condition of the Wye river system, we can develop the hypothesis a stage further. Namely, DEFRA does nothing when evidence emerges from the environmental regulators and indeed from other organisations38 of adverse consequences from this cheap food policy.

Indeed, the evidence before DEFRA is not only in terms of the poor design of the regime under which IPUs are licensed and operate (deficient MMPs and no operational assessment), but also in terms of inaction taken to arrest the decline in water quality (absence of corrective action by the EA, LPAs, JNCC and NE).

So the charge sheet in this hypothesis reads: Although DEFRA is the superintending government department in virtually all spheres relating to the Wye river system, DEFRA is taking no action over a dysfunctional food production system which it has designed, and is taking no action, regulatory or otherwise, to protect the natural world and those aspects requiring statutory protection. This constitutes a dereliction by DEFRA of its legal duties, established by Government through Parliament under statute law.

Will Parliament act on this? It has demonstrated no willingness to do so.

Will the OEP act on this? It has been in existence a very short time, so it is still likely to be defining its agenda. However the OEP has stated that its agenda, its case load, consists of matters involving breaches of the law which are drawn to its attention by the public. The charge sheet here is clear. DEFRA, and possibly lesser government agencies too, are in breach of their statutory and regulatory duties. So will the OEP investigate and determine the truth? Or, is it a paper tiger?

Pollution in the Upper Wye : Who will Deliver the Solution?

In the introduction Marinet said the report addresses this vital question. We do so now.

That there is a problem to be solved is incontrovertible. Not just in environmental and ecological terms, but also in political terms — that is to say, who will take the political decisions required, and whoever this decision-maker is, how will they be persuaded to do so?

That the River Wye and the watercourses in its catchment are in the process of dying seems an unbelievable reality. For them to actually die stretches credulity even further. However that is exactly what is happening.

The farmers themselves, who are installing and deriving the benefit from intensive poultry farming, seem to have a greater love for money than the natural world. Despite being custodians of the natural world, they seem disinclined to embrace the alternative solution which could solve the problem entirely — namely, anaerobic digestion of their poultry manure, and then selling it to the national agricultural fertiliser companies. Yet no one is interested in this solution.

If the solution is not to be externally imposed, then farmers have a choice to make. Either they are compelled to give up IPU farming, or they stop on-farm manure disposal and install anaerobic digestion with off-farm disposal to other farmers and the national fertiliser companies.

These two alternatives are the only solution, regardless who delivers it.

The immediate regulators, in the guise of the Environment Agency/NRW, the LPAs and Natural England/JNCC, are showing no interest either. All are participating in the design of an on-farm manure disposal process (the MMPs) which is unfit for purpose and, to be frank, it does not take an expert to appreciate this fact. In addition, they are ignoring the evidence of severe adverse impact on the watercourses from this on-farm manure disposal regime. To be blunt, they are not responding to meet their legal duties in the light of this evidence. This is a dereliction of duty.

This reality means these regulators too cannot be relied upon to deliver the solution. In fact, they are clear candidates for referral by the public to the Office for Environmental Protection for breach of their statutory legal responsibilities by which they are bound.

The superintending government department in charge of the whole regulatory system, DEFRA, is responding with an equal degree of negligence.

DEFRA has facilitated the establishment of a system of intensive livestock farming which is arguably unsound on a number of counts — as has been argued by others. For example, in terms of animal welfare and contaminated farming produce. However the issue which concerns us is the adverse impact on the aquatic environment of intensive poultry and livestock farming and, in particular, those river assets which carry the highest conservation designation.

The charge sheet reads: DEFRA is superintending a planning and licensing regime as well as a regulatory regime which DEFRA knows are both dysfunctional, yet it is taking no action to arrest this. It is therefore in dereliction of its legal responsibilities to ensure a sound system of government on all these counts.

It follows DEFRA is in breach of its legal duty to the nation to ensure:
• Firstly, the protection of these conservation assets (the Wye river system).
• Secondly, it is a breach of its duty to arrest or reform the practices that threaten those conservation assets, and
• Thirdly this breach extends to a failure by DEFRA to instruct the regulators, who DEFRA superintends, to do the same.

The public therefore need to bring DEFRA before the Office for Environmental Protection. To summarise: the charge is a complete failure by DEFRA in its fiduciary duty placed upon it by the nation through Parliament.

Parliament could hold DEFRA to account on these matters, and so deliver the solution which we have outlined. But Parliament is failing too.

Therefore the responsibility for delivery of the solution falls upon us, the public. Both as individuals, which means you, and in the form of organisations like county wildlife trusts and citizen organisations.

It is clear that the Office of Protection has the authority to instruct both DEFRA and subordinate agencies of government to save the life of the Wye river system if they are in breach of the law — and our report has shown that DEFRA and they are breaching the law.

Therefore referral of this situation to the OEP by the public, both as individuals and as collective organisations is essential. Parliament created this judicial process operated by the OEP for this precise purpose. We, the public, must now ensure that the OEP delivers on this.

Should the OEP fail in its duty, then the task becomes harder. In those circumstances the public will have to inform Parliament (i.e. the Government, the Committees of Parliament, the MPs and Peers in the Lords) that the rule of law, for which Parliament itself is uniquely responsible, is not functioning. The message then becomes that the absolute authority of the law, the law established by Parliament and which should be safeguarding the Wye river system, is itself in jeopardy.

Let us hope that our system of government does not place this task upon us.

If the approach to the OEP fails that is the fall-back plan if the River Wye continues to lose its life. However, we are then in a struggle for the supremacy of values — values which embrace respect for the natural world, or values willing to permit its destruction. This happens elsewhere on this planet, notably in the Earth’s equatorial and tropical rainforests where the loss of the natural world to commercial values is relentless39 and also in the loss of marine populations and habitats, whether that be commercially extinct and declining fishing stocks40 or the extensive death of coral reefs41.

Yet within England itself, most people think we know how to be wiser and more intelligent. However the fate of the River Wye and this catchment’s watercourses will reveal the truth of that belief. It is a challenge and a test of our commitment to the natural world. This means that you, knowing now all that you have learnt here, must act now — whether this is in respect of the Wye, or a river near you which you are trying to protect from pollution.

Marinet will be registering a specific complaint in the name of Marinet regarding the pollution in the river Wye catchment, as described in this report. To support Marinet, contact the OEP and simply say: you support the Marinet complaint about DEFRA, the Env. Agency and Natural England for failing to meet their legal responsibilities to protect the river Wye.

To contact the Office for Environmental Protection go to their website. You will find there is a formal procedure for making a complaint about your own river or any other matter. You will have to register and make a submission: www.theoep.org.uk/office-environmental-protection

Or, to keep it simple — which we recommend, you can just tell the OEP that you support the Marinet complaint:
Mailto:enquiries@theoep.org.uk — mark it for the attention of the Chief Executive Officer, or
Telephone: 03300 416 581, or
Write by post: OEP, Worcestershire County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester WR5 2NP.

Keep your email/letter simple. As we say, you do not need to say to the OEP’s CEO anything more other than that you support the Marinet complaint. So that you know, Marinet’s complaint will be saying:

• DEFRA, the department of government with ultimate responsibility for the health of the River Wye and its catchment’s watercourses, has failed in its legal and regulatory duties as a superintending Department of State to protect the river Wye catchment from the adverse impact of intensive poultry livestock farming (IPUs).
• The Environment Agency is approving IPU manure management plans (MMPs) which are demonstrably unfit for purpose and then failing to take corrective regulatory action, and
• Natural England is failing in its legal regulatory duty to protect the River Wye SAC and SSSI.

To re-emphasise a crucial point for environmental campaign organisations and individuals, the Office for Environmental Protection does not start an investigation until someone asks the OEP to do one. This is because the Office for Environmental Protection cannot commence an investigation on its own initiative. It requires you to request it to do so.

Also important, the OEP likes you to have tried to solve your problem involving a government authority or department before going to the OEP. In other words it wants a genuine complaint, and not just a gripe. So where that is possible, you will need to explain how you have tried to resolve the breaking of environmental law by government before you go to the OEP. In this sense, the OEP is a court of appeal.

Once you have registered your request with the OEP and the OEP has accepted it, the OEP will conduct that investigation at no financial cost to yourself.

So it is relatively straightforward. First you must register. Then this is how to do it:

• Give the OEP the name of the government department or agency you want investigated. If you think there is more than one department/agency responsible, name them all, e.g. DEFRA, a Local Authority, the Environment Agency, Natural England, etc.

• State the subject: e.g. failure of some branch of government to use their administrative, regulatory and legal powers to stop the pollution of . . . . , or whatever it is that concerns you.

• Give the source of your evidence e.g. the pollution and the action you have previously taken with government to try to resolve the problem, and why it remains unresolved.

• Give your name, address and contact details.

The Office for Environmental Protection has been created by Parliament specifically to give power to the public to bring government to account when it has broken the law. That means, power to you.

So please tell others about this Marinet report and ask them also, if they are in agreement, to make a complaint to the OEP.

Marinet is here to help you. Visit our website for a copy of this report or contact us by email if you need additional assistance:


June 2022.




1 Marinet Limited is a membership-based not for profit limited liability company run on a voluntary basis by its members. It provides information to the public and campaigns for change on issues affecting the quality and health of our seas and aquatic environment, focused largely on the UK but also with a global concern and perspective where relevant. Membership is open to any individual or organisation. Further details about Marinet are available on its website www.marinet.org.uk

2 EAC Report Water Quality in Rivers: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmselect/cmenvaud/74/report.html and Marinet Summary of this EAC Report : www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/summary-of-commons-eac-report-on-water-quality-in-rivers-2022

3 SOS Whitstable: www.facebook.com/SOSWhitstable

4 UK Environment Act 2021, see Part 5 Water, paras. 78 to 84 :www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2021/30/contents/enacted
and a Marinet campaigning perspective on the 2021 Act, Feb 2022: www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/how-to-make-the-environment-act-deliver-on-sewage-pollution

5 Sand, Sea and Sewage: www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/sand-sea-and-sewage. Also a short (8 minutes) video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaIKwvQRjaI

6 Map of Water quality in Mersey basin catchment in 1984, see: http://merseybasin.org.uk/archive/assets/212/original/Peter_Batey_presentation_Environment_09.pdf

7 Bathing Water Regulations which govern bacteriological standards in bathing waters, revised 2015, see: BWD 76/160/EEC (original standards) www.eea.europa.eu/policy-documents/quality-of-bathing-water-76 and BW Regulations 2013 ( revised standards) www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/1675/regulation/11 Also Urban Waste Water Treatment Regulations 1994 which govern the quality of sewage treatment provided by sewage treatment works and their discharges www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1994/2841/contents. Also Water Framework Regulations 2017 which provide the overall framework for regulation www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2017/407/contents/made and which incorporate the earlier Dangerous Substances Directives and their standards for permissible discharges of dangerous substances to watercourses.

8 Marinet Summary of this Environment Audit Committee Report : www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/summary-of-commons-eac-report-on-water-quality-in-rivers-2022

9 See summary of these reasons by The Guardian newspaper in January 2022 with onward links to other sources of evidence: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jan/18/the-guardian-view-on-water-pollution-come-clean-on-sewage

10 There are 15,000 storm overflows in England discharging to either inland water bodies, estuaries or the coast. See Storm Overflow Evidence Project, Nov. 2021, author: Stantec, commissioned by DEFRA, the Env. Agency and the water industry: www.gov.uk/government/publications/storm-overflows-evidence-project

11 ITV News Central 1st April 2021, 64 years worth of raw sewage dumped into rivers and streams by Severn Trent, see: www.itv.com/news/central/2021-04-01/severn-trent-water-64-years-worth-raw-sewage-dumped-rivers-streams

12 Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) SAC listing for the River Wye, see: https://sac.jncc.gov.uk/site/UK0012642

13 For clear evidence of the serious pollution now affecting the River Wye and which first alerted us to the serious problems confronting this iconic river, see the film Rivercide by George Monbiot: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ID0VAUNANA

14 For a clear example of such pollution, in this case the presence of giardia which is a parasite present largely in animal but also human sewage, see: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-61030312 . For its prevalence in animals and livestock and thus in their faeces, see: www.intechopen.com/chapters/57074www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/factsheets.html

15 The Wye Salmon Association monitors the entire river using ‘citizen science’, see: www.wyesalmon.com

16 The Friends of the Upper Wye monitor the upper river using ‘citizen science’, see: www.fouw.org.uk

17 See the Wye Usk Foundation with links to the Friends of the River Lugg (Arrow), Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), and WUF WYE (Curl Brook, a tributary of the Arrow): www.wyeuskfoundation.org/join-a-citizen-science-group and G. Monbiot and Fran Armstrong, Rivercide 2021: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ID0VAUNANA

18 There is no fixed definition of an IPU, but it generally means a unit with several thousand birds in one or more sheds. IPU populations, depending on circumstance, range from 16,000 birds to over 100,000 birds. See Gordon Green, Wye Salmon Association and Part I, page 5, for population sizes of IPUs: www.wyesalmon.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/A-Study-of-Poultry-Farming-and-its-Impact-on-Water-Quality-in-the-Wye.pdf

19 Environment Agency: Catchment Data Explorer: Lugg, Arrow and Frome Operational Catchment – enter name of catchment when using EA’s Catchment Data explorer : https://environment.data.gov.uk/catchment-planning/OperationalCatchment/3014

20 There are several websites explaining algal blooms e.g. Wikipedia. A simple guide is available from the US EPA: www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/effects-dead-zones-and-harmful-algal-blooms

21 RB209 Nutrient Management Guide, Defra, see: https://ahdb.org.uk/nutrient-management-guide-rb209

22 Council for the Protection of Rural Wales www.brecon-and-radnor-cprw.wales/?page_id=1513

23 See: https://environment.data.gov.uk/catchment-planning/v/c3-draft-plan/OperationalCatchment/3014

24 Env. Agency evidence from Sir James Bevan, CEO of the Env. Agency, to House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report on Water Quality in Rivers: www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/23/environment-agency-needs-120m-grant-restored-to-protect-rivers-says-ceo

25 Agricultural fertilizer market in the UK in 2019 – statistics & facts, published by Statista.com, Sep 15, 2021, see: Agricultural fertilizer market in the UK in 2019

26 This data has been tabulated by Marinet and is based on research undertaken by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) published 2021, ref. www.ciwf.org.uk/factory-farm-map/#pig/all

27 Nitrate and Phosphate fertiliser from IPUs is organic (i.e. is derived from animal waste). Most agricultural fertiliser is not organic but is manufactured. For a short, simple summary of the manufacturing procedure for both nitrate and phosphate fertilisers, see: manufacturing procedure for both nitrate and phosphate fertilisers
How to manufacture nitrate fertilizer, see video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdnyM0oN8xQ
How to manufacture phosphate fertiliser, see: How to manufacture phosphate fertiliser.
For the carbon footprint of manufactured fertilisers, see: https://cen.acs.org/environment/green-chemistry/Industrial-ammonia-production-emits-CO2/97/i24

28 River Lugg SSSI citation, see: https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/PDFsForWeb/Citation/1006616.pdf

29 Cow to acre ratio, see: https://agricsite.com/how-many-cows-on-10-acres

30 Sheep to acre ration, see: https://savvyfarmlife.com/how-many-sheep-per-acre

31 Poultry to acre ratio, calculated from Bureau of Investigative Journalism report – The rise of the “Megafarm” : How British Meat is made, see: www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2017-07-17/megafarms-uk-intensive-farming-meat

32 Office of Environmental Protection, see: www.theoep.org.uk/office-environmental-protection

33 The Guardian, 2nd March 2022, Environment Agency downgrading 93% of prosecutions for serious pollution, see: www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/02/environment-agency-england-downgrading-prosecutions-serious-pollution-leaked-report?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

34 National Resources Wales, Dec. 2020: https://naturalresources.wales/about-us/news-and-events/news/nrw-issues-new-advice-to-safeguard-the-river-wye-special-area-of-conservation/?lang=en

35 Natural Resources Wales, Sept. 2021: https://naturalresources.wales/evidence-and-data/research-and-reports/water-reports/river-wye-compliance-report/?lang=en

36 The Office of Environmental Protection, see: www.theoep.org.uk/what-we-can-investigate#:~:text=We%20will%20usually%20only%20consider,whether%20it%20has%20been%20met

37 See: https://theconversation.com/revealed-true-cost-of-britains-addiction-to-factory-farmed-chicken-158555

38 Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, Helen Stace, CEO, June 2021: www.herefordshirewt.org/blog/helen-stace/wye-oh-wye

39 See http://ypte.org.uk/factsheets/rainforests/why-are-rainforests-important . In terms of biodiversitybiodiversity Biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals. “Rainforests contain about half of the existing plant and animal species in the world. They contain a third of the world’s bird species and 90% of its invertebrates. The remaining African rainforests contain more animals and plant species than are found anywhere else on the continent.  In just one year in 2006, 19 new species of lemur were officially recorded in Madagascar. In 2.5 acres of the Amazon there could be 300 different tree species, compared to the 40 found in the whole of the UK! 2.5 acres may also contain over 750 types of trees and 1500 species of higher plants.”

40 See www.fao.org/3/ca9229en/ca9229en.pdf In terms of commercial marine fish stocks the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states: “The fraction of fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels decreased from 90 percent in 1974 to 65.8 percent in 2017 (Figure 19). In contrast, the percentage of stocks fished at biologically unsustainable levels increased, especially in the late 1970s and 1980s, from 10 percent in 1974 to 34.2 percent in 2017. This calculation treats all fish stocks equally regardless of their biomassbiomass The amount of living matter. This is therefore a different measure to numbers of organisms. So, for example, there is much more biomass in 1 elephant than there is in 1000 fleas and there may be more biomass in 100 large cod than you would find in 150 small (because of over fishing) cod. and catch.”
In respect of a commercial fish stock that has become commercially extinct, e.g. Newfoundland cod, see www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/economy/moratorium.php#:~:text=By%20the%20early%201990s%2C%20after,and%20110%2C000%20tonnes%20in%201992. “By the early 1990s, after decades of sustained intensive fishing from Canadian and international fleets, the northern cod stocks collapsed. The spawning biomass of northern cod had dropped by about 93 per cent in only 30 years – from 1.6 million tonnes in 1962 to between 72,000 and 110,000 tonnes in 1992. In July of that year, Canada imposed a moratorium on the catching of northern cod and ended an international industry that had endured for close to 500 years.”

41 Great Barrier Coral Reef, Australia, see www.voanews.com/a/east-asia-pacific_great-barrier-reef-has-lost-over-50-percent-its-coral/6197108.html “Scientists have discovered that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef lost more than half of its coral populations between 1995 and 2017.” For the global importance of coral reefs , see www.epa.gov/coral-reefs/basic-information-about-coral-reefs “Coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. An estimated 25 percent of all marine life, including over 4,000 species of fish, are dependent on coral reefs at some point in their life cycle. An estimated 1 billion people worldwide benefit from the many ecosystem services coral reefs provide including food, coastal protection, and income from tourism and fisheries.”


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