Water Quality

Clean water, clean Wye?

The River Wye faces a number of challenges, including how clean its water is. The standard of water quality can be influenced by a broad range of factors, including sewage works, agriculture & forestry. Here you will find information on local projects, monitoring data and plans which inform us of the current condition of the Wye’s water quality.

The River Wye is an ecological treasure.

Good water quality is integral to ensuring the health of the river, to protect the species which call it home and maintain the ecosystem services it provides like clean drinking water and recreational activities for both those who live in or visit the catchment.

To find out more click on the following links

  • Environment Agency’s “Catchment Explorer”

    To access water quality data for England click here:

  • Natural Resources Wales’ “Water Watch Wales”

    To access water quality data for Wales click here:

  • River Wye nutrient management plan

    Excessive nutrients in streams and rivers causes a dense growth of algae and plant life, this is called eutrophication. To read the strategic plan to reduce phosphate in the Wye click here:

  • Dwr Cymru Welsh Water

    To find out about the improvements made to our sewage systems click here:

    Read PDF
  • Acid water

    In the upper reaches of the Wye acid waters are a key concern. Click here to see how these have been addressed:

  • Focus on farming

    Agriculture shapes much of our landscape. Find out about local projects, initiatives and funding opportunities here:

    Learn more

How does this approach work?

  • Fields of bare soil with no growing crops or grass covering them are clearly much more likely to lose their soil. The Environment Agency can now identify where they are by using the excellent images from the Sentinel 2 satellite, launched in 2015. The satellite crosses the UK every few days so gives an almost real time picture of land use, although it does have to have clear skies!

  • Environment Agency LIDAR data provides incredibly accurate information on the height and levels of land. For their search they identify all land that has a slope of more than 6%. This is because soil runoff is much more likely to happen when there is a steep slope. Clever computer modelling can then find areas that combine bare soils with steep sloping land. The yellow on this image show sites they are interested in!

  • The next step is to overlay a highly detailed map of the river network. This includes tiny ditches and streams as well as larger rivers and gives a good idea of how soil and nutrients running off the land might find their way into the main river network.

  • Finally the Environment Agency add in details of soil types. Light, sandy soils are much more likely to be washed off than heavy clays. Not all bare fields will pollute. But they're now better at finding those that do.

  • Equipped with this data Environment Officers know where to start looking after rainfall events. Initial results have been very encouraging. Of the 50 locations visited in early 2017, 13 were assessed as presenting a high risk of causing immediate pollution problems. 5 were actually causing pollution at the time of the visit despite only relatively small amounts of rainfall.

  • Once the Officers have identified problematic fields they contact the landowners. The severity of the problem adjusts their response but in most instances the first course of action is a letter that explains the work they are doing and why the landowner is being contacted. The Environment Agency then explain the problem and whether any environmental permitting regulations have been breached. In worst cases they have referred farmers to the Rural Payments Agency as well as threatening them with an anti-pollution works notice. If pollution persists they will prosecute. Signposting to local advice from the Farm Herefordshire initiative has proven to be a popular solution too.