The waters of the Avon are classified as of moderate quality within the Water Framework Directive (WFD) of the EU because of elevated levels of phosphate. As the classification system uses the lowest class from all of the elements, the overall WFD classification for the water bodies is moderate. This means that the water bodies are below the target of Good Ecological Status.
One of the most important roles of the ACA is to help improve the status of Avon water and, thus, to improve the river as a habitat for aquatic animals and plants. We have already played a major part in getting the Avon accepted into the the England Catchment Sensitive Farming Initiative which, amongst other things, advises farmers how to reduce the amounts of phosphate and nitrate fertilisers entering our watercourses (for more information, just type ‘catchment sensitive farming’ into the search bar on this website). Now, we are trying to persuade the general public to reduce the amount of phosphate they put into their own waste water so it doesn’t end up entering our river. This initiative is an extension of a Salcombe Harbour Board campaign, part-funded by the South Devon LAG, mainly focussed on the Salcombe/ Kingsbridge estuary where similar problems of high nutrient levels in the water are encountered and give rise to poisonous algal blooms from time to time.
Everybody can help in a small but nonetheless important way with this initiative by the use of recycled ‘grey’ water for gardening (rather than pouring it down the drain and using expensive fresh tap water for the same purpose) and by the routine use of phosphate-free detergents and other cleaning agents at work and at home. As a start, a list of phosphate-free washing up liquid and dish-washing detergents is available here – phosphate free detergent list. You will see from the list that there is plenty of choice and some very well-known brands are phosphate free; you need not be inconvenienced in any way! You can also help by sharing this information with your friends.
We are very grateful to the ‘Love Your Lakes’ campaign of the registered charity Nurture Lakeland (www.nurturelakeland.org.) for allowing us to utilise their painstakingly compiled list of phosphate-free products; the information is surprisingly difficult to obtain.
Please think more about what you tip down the drain or into your cesspit. Eventually, it all ends up somewhere in the external environment and it might even come back to haunt your wallet in the form of more expensive water bills if we all end up paying for subsequent phosphate extraction costs! Think SUSTAINABILITY!