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Vigilance needed to keep rivers clean 29 September 2006

In recent years, water quality monitoring by the Government Laboratory has consistently shown the Island’s river water quality to be of a very high standard and superior to that in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. However, such good results are not grounds for complacency. This was evidenced by routine checks this summer, when the Laboratory’s Freshwater Biologist, Calum MacNeil, found a number of inappropriate discharges, channel workings and obstructions that could prove damaging to river habitats and water quality.

Calum MacNeil commented,

“Maintaining and protecting river water quality is an ongoing process that relies on everyone playing their part. Those living or working on or near any river, whether a minor tributary or a major waterway, should always consider how their actions might impact on the watercourse and the wildlife therein, including any effects both up and downstream. Everyone having any contact with watercourses needs to be aware of their responsibilities and should observe good practice. Very often, a little bit more thought and care would go a long way to preventing serious damage to rivers and the fish and other aquatic life that inhabit them. Whilst action may be taken by the regulatory authorities in relation to any adverse impacts on rivers and the quality of their waters, the consequence of such damage could be far-reaching and could adversely affect the environment and be reflected in a poorer, overall assessment of the Island’s river water quality. This is a prime case where prevention is better than cure”.

Details of good practice, whom to consult when planning river works, and legislation affecting owners of watercourses are detailed in The Manx Watercourse Management Code leaflet issued jointly by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Transport.

The Government Laboratory’s Freshwater Biologist regularly checks water quality in over 80 sites covering all major rivers on the Island. This work informs and complements the regulatory functions of this Department’s Environmental Protection Unit, which sets limits for and licenses any discharges into rivers, and takes action on pollution incidents.

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