As you are aware many parts of the country are short of water after long periods of exceptionally low rainfall and the public being urged to conserve water. The lack of rain places a great strain on the environment and subsequently the places we go canoeing. The dry spell is forecast to continue over the coming months and it is likely we are going to see lower river levels than normal with some more of the smaller rivers drying up which will affect fish and wildlife.
British Canoeing and Canoe Wales have been notified by the Environment Agency of the potential for restrictions to be put in place on the River Wye:
“If the current hot, dry spell persists and ecological damage becomes a significant risk (such as canoeists, on stretches where there is insufficient depth, getting out and walking, trampling gravels etc), it may become necessary to temporarily prohibit, restrict or regulate the navigation and use of certain parts of the river in accordance with Article 19 of the Wye Navigation Order 2002.
Events at the Washburn in Yorkshire have also been suspended until water stocks in the reservoirs improve.
Therefore it is important to follow guidelines when you are either considering to paddle or when you are on the water. We recommend that you consider the following actions in order to minimise the risk to both yourself and the natural environment:
- Do not canoe on waterways which are too shallow and where you may come into contact with the river or lake bed. This may have the potential impact of disturbing wildlife and their habitats or attract allegations of disturbance.
- If you encounter shallower areas, read the water and seek out a deeper channel where possible as your route
- To limit the number of times a lock has to open you should share the lock with other craft or simply portage around the lock.
- Low flows means there is less water to dilute effluent/ run off from surrounding land and sewage treatment works. Be aware lower levels of water quality can present a potential health hazard.
- Be aware of toxic blue green algae which may be more common on our waterways at times of low water flow/quantity.
- Use water sparingly when washing down your equipment when following Stop The Spread (bio-security) guidance. It is permissible to use a hosepipe for bio-security and health & safety measures in provisions under the Water Use (Temporary Bans) Order 2010.
Report incidents, pollution and damage to the environment such as fish deaths to the relevant authorities:
Contacts Environment Agency for pollution and fish deaths 0800 80 70 60 & Canal and River Trust - http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/contact-us
RSPCA for wildlife and animals in distress 0990 55 59 99 (24 hours)
Paddlers are highly likely to use waterways which at sometimes of the year are susceptible to potentially harmful Blue Green Algae. Blue Green Algae is just one of a number of algal species that live naturally in inland waters. When conditions are just right – still water, high nutrient input from such sources as fertilizers (phosphate), calm, hot and sunny weather – algae can reproduce rapidly and very quickly out-compete other plant life to dominate the lake causing algal ‘scums’ and blooms. The algae are unsightly and can be toxic to both people and pets.
If you are concerned with any waterways containing blue green algae, please contact the Environment Agency Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.