A Heatwave and Its Impact on Our Aquatic Friends
As England braces itself for the onset of a heatwave, the potential impact on our rivers and their inhabitants is a major cause for concern. The Environment Agency (EA) has issued a warning about the increased risk of fish deaths as a result of such extreme weather conditions. Already, hundreds of fish kill incidents have been recorded this year, with a significant rise noticed in recent weeks, particularly in the North West. The EA attributes these incidents to a decrease in oxygen levels in rivers and canals, which can be intensified by heatwaves.
The Angling Trust, a body focused on the protection and promotion of angling, has echoed these concerns. They’ve also noted a sharp increase in fish deaths, which they believe are the result of a combination of factors including poor water quality, pollution, and in some areas, over-extraction and low flow of water.
The Environment Agency’s Response and Concerns
In response to this impending crisis, the EA has put its teams on high alert, ready to oxygenate our rivers around the clock using aeration equipment. This effort aims to restore the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, providing a lifeline for the fish.
However, the Angling Trust has voiced skepticism over this approach, branding it as “complacent”. While acknowledging the role of oxygen loss in these incidents, they argue that the responsibility doesn’t lie solely with the heatwave. They call this a wake-up call for the EA and Defra, emphasising the daily abuse our rivers face and their diminishing resilience due to climate change.
England’s Waterways: A Story of Pollution and Neglect
These fish deaths are a stark reminder of the broader issues facing our waterways. Recent research has found that England’s water companies are “environmentally insolvent”, lacking the financial resources needed to address their sewage spillages, a significant source of pollution in our rivers. This has led to calls for the nationalisation of water companies and a change in the way we manage our water resources.
Unfortunately, this pollution problem is not a standalone issue. It’s compounded by the impending heatwave, predicted to bring unsettled weather in the beginning, with the possibility of showers and thunderstorms, followed by drier and warmer conditions as the month progresses. These weather conditions, combined with the existing water pollution, pose a major threat to our aquatic life.
An Appeal for Change
As we face these impending challenges, it’s clear that a more comprehensive approach is needed to protect our rivers, their inhabitants, and our broader environment. We must prioritise the health of our waterways, not just in the face of a heatwave but as a standard of care. We must tackle pollution at its source, demand accountability from water companies, and explore sustainable ways to manage our water resources. The time for action is now.
Bournemouth Observer’s Environmental Section: A Beacon for Green News.