England’s Most Famous Lakes to Receive New Attention

At the ‘Lakes for Living, Lakes for Life’ conference being held on the shores of Lake Windermere this week, the Environment Agency has announced that it will assess the 730 most important lakes in England & Wales which need to meet the high standards of the Water Framework Directive.

Whilst river water quality has improved dramatically over the past 20 years, lakes have often continued to deteriorate in the face of more complex environmental challenges. Numerous iconic lakes are threatened by a range of problems. Pesticides and fertilisers from farming are contributing to regular blue-green algal blooms in the Lake District, which prevent people from going into the water. Meanwhile introduced species, such as the New Zealand Pigmyweed, have escaped into lakes like Windermere and are now out-competing many native species. Climate change is also forecast to bring severe problems, with more intense storms creating the potential for increased soil and pollution to be washed off the land into our lakes.

The Environment agency is currently developing plans to improve the condition of lakes and rivers across England and Wales. Under the Water Framework Directive, plans must be approved by the end of 2009 outlining how all our water bodies will be restored to health. Currently 85% of our lakes are failing to meet ‘Good Ecological Status’ (GES).

The draft plans published by the Environment Agency in December 2008 suggested that we would only aim to achieve a 4% increase in GES in rivers, while there is no planned improvement at all for lakes, estuaries and coastal waters. The Environment Agency and Defra have acknowledged that this is an unacceptably weak level of ambition, and that more must be done. They are asking for public input as to how this will be achieved.

Consultation is therefore now under way, and runs until the 22nd June 2009. If you would like to participate in this very important consultation, which will dictate freshwater management until 2015 and beyond, please visit the environment agency website.

A coalition of environmental NGOs have also launched a very useful website which will feed into the consultation. Visit the Our Rivers website.