Our rivers, streams, brooks and canals are vital to the health of our world, our wildlife and, of course, ourselves. Without water there is no life, without clean water there is a danger to life and whilst we seem to understand this in relation to countries where clean water is not readily available (though we still don't do enough) we do not seem to make the connection that just because we can get 'clean' water out of a tap that somehow we do not recognise what is going on in our rivers.
I was wandering around Twitter as I usually do the other day and found retweeted into my timeline this article from Peter Foster. This article hooked me in as Peter was talking specifically about the River Trent where it runs past East Midlands Airport. I grew up in Nottingham and the River Trent was always significant: driving over Trent Bridge was how to get into the City, watching the water levels move up and down the steps by the bridge was always a tell of how much rain we had had. A favourite thing was to walk alongside the river, sometimes ending up at the Ferry at Wilford for a drink/lunch. The two Nottingham football clubs sit as neighbours with the Trent separating them. The Trent ran through my life.
Now I live in Leicester and running behind and down from my house is a brook. I have spent the last 15 years watching the brook, watching it almost dry up in the summer and then returning in the winter. It is culverted in places yet runs free in others. The brook might not be the Trent, yet my connection with it feels strong. I have walked almost the whole length of the brook, I could not quite get to where it emerges but I have walked along as far as I can to where it flows into the River Soar. The brook matters.
The article from Peter Foster is about pollution levels in the River Trent and how they are not being monitored effectively and how the water quality is suffering. Let us just start with his opening statement that the airport has a licence to discharge waste water that includes de-icing agents into the water for several months of the year. We all know the scandal of effluent being discharged into the sea so it should be no surprise that we allow other pollutions to be washed into our water systems and yet it is still shocking. How can this be thought a good thing to do?
That it is anglers and bird watchers bringing the material impact of this pollution to the fore is no surprise. They are watching and monitoring the areas that they use. I remember as a child being driven over Trent Bridge and there would be people fishing by the river. "They're wasting their time" my dad used to say, "the river is far too filthy for fish to be in there." Time moved on and the water quality improved. Yet now it seems that the quality is declining (has declined) again. If there are no fish to catch this is more than just a shame for anglers, it is a serious red flag that pollution is out of control and that will impact on us all.
The only time I have seen a kingfisher in the wild was in my own garden. It was lost, very lost, but it was in my garden and it was a moment of happy. We need more moments of happy, we need more kingfishers, we need more fish in our rivers. We need clean rivers so that our wildlife and environment can thrive. There really does have to be a better way to handle our waste and in my simplistic world I cannot understand why we are not trying harder to find that better way. It feels like idleness and greed, that businesses can dump pollution into rivers rather than spend some of their profits to find a better way. I am ashamed for them and of them.
and let's just talk for a moment about flytipping. There are outbreaks of flytipping where I live every now and again. Sometimes at the top of my road, sometimes at the side of my road and once spectacularly across the road so that it was totally blocked. Flytipping makes me furious because it is so lazy, so thoughtless, so selfish.