Watery walks lead the way to better water quality for Ayrshire

Posted: Friday 26th March 2010

Every journey starts with a few steps and the month of March will see environmental experts walking the land around key rivers and burns in Ayrshire.

Staff from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will be walking sections of the Rivers Ayr, Doon, Irvine and Garnock, and the Pow, Rumbling, Stanley and Stevenson coastal burns, over the coming months. They will be collecting information and assessing the impacts of rural diffuse pollution. The work is an essential part of ensuring that Scotland's water quality continues to improve and meets quality improvement targets set for 2015.

The Ayrshire rivers are part of 14 Scottish water catchments that have been prioritised for work between now and 2015. Diffuse pollution, often driven by rainfall, results in water contaminated with soil, nutrients, bacteria and chemicals running off land into the local water environment. This is a major contributor to poor water quality, including at local beaches, as well as impacting on ecology.

SEPA has appointed Priority Catchment Officers to coordinate work in each area. Once complete a series of workshops and information events will be arranged to explain the findings to local landowners and partner organisations. SEPA will then start work with them, as well as with Scottish Government, SNH, NFUS and other partner organisations, to identify what actions are needed to improve water quality and protect Ayrshire's environment.

Stephen Field, Land Unit Manager for SEPA, said:

"Work to tackle rural diffuse pollution within Ayrshire cannot be completed without help from the community, and we hope that this will build on the 2002 to 2005 successful bathing waters campaign. Again we need the support of local land managers to deal with diffuse pollution issues and hope that a plan to work on the issues facing each catchment can be developed. This isn't about SEPA dictating what needs to be done to sort out the problem, it's about working together with the people that live and work in the area, and we are looking for their support in achieving environmental improvements to water quality and public health.

"We hope that any land managers meeting our staff walking the catchments during March and April will allow them to do so, as well as taking the opportunity to tell us about any water issues that concern them. SEPA will be taking steps to ensure that we communicate our priority catchment work with all those involved to help us stop rural diffuse pollution being an issue in Ayrshire."

Jonathan Hall, Head of Rural Policy for NFUS, said:

"Managing water quality is as much about land management as everything else put together, with 5.6 million hectares of Scottish land under agricultural management. This means that Scotland's farmers carry a huge responsibility to ensure that the water environment is of the highest quality in every aspect and that is a challenge that they continue to rise to.

"Clear and concise guidance on measures that can be taken to minimise diffuse water pollution and improve input efficiency will benefit both the water environment and farm business performance. Tackling the key issues will need a new approach, and this kind of relationship is currently being fostered by SEPA and NFU Scotland working together."

Further information on rural diffuse priority catchments is available at www.sepa.org.uk/dpprioritycatchments.

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