Chris Seeks Clarity On River Avon Phosphates
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what data his Department holds on (a) the level of phosphorus in, (b) the nutrient budget calculation for phosphorus in, (c) the required reduction in phosphorus levels to meet water quality targets for and (d) the date by which that reduction must be achieved for the River Avon Special Area of Conservation; and what steps Natural England is taking to meet those targets.
The Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England (NE) gather monitoring data to track levels of phosphorus in the River Avon Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Phosphorus concentrations in the headwaters of the River Avon are typically around 0.1 mg/L, and in some reaches are even higher, declining to around 0.065 mg/L in the lower reaches.
The River Avon Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) sets out further evidence and supporting information on phosphorus levels in the river. This includes information on the reductions in phosphorus loads from different sources that would be required to achieve the SAC water quality targets, and the measures that must be in place in order for these reductions to be achieved.
The Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England (NE) have also been reviewing the reduction targets and measures against the updated ‘polluter pays’ fair share targets and will update the NMP as needed following this review. The latest information indicates the annual average nutrient load passing through the Avon (nutrient budget) for the SAC is around 55 tonnes Ortho-phosphorus a year. Reductions to meet the SAC target potentially equate to around 47% from all sources.
Subject to Ofwat approval and expected advice from Defra on the implementation of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023, necessary water company reductions are expected to be met over PR24 and PR29. The EA and NE will be looking for similar reductions from the agricultural sector over this time frame but details around this need to be finalised.
The EA and NE are working with a number of partners, stakeholders and landowners in the River Avon to ensure nutrient loads are managed and reduced effectively. This includes delivering advice schemes like Catchment Sensitive Farming to reduce diffuse pollution from agriculture, supporting innovative river restoration schemes that optimise phosphorus reduction, and providing sustainable development advice to developers. There will be further engagement with stakeholders as part of any NMP update.
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