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Darting dragonflies, the blue flash of a kingfisher, exciting chance encounters with water voles and otters. Our wetland environments are some of the richest areas for wildlife. Fresh clean water, straight from the tap, has a huge impact on nature and not many of us think about this when we turn on our taps. Therefore a network of 28 Non-Governmental Organisations, including RSPB Cymru, launched their first ever Blueprint for PR19 document on 18 May at the Wales Research Institute, Cardiff University.

Eleanor Bentall, rspb-images.com

The Blueprint for PR19 document – the PR stands for ‘Periodic Review’ - is a call to action for water companies in Wales to invest in matters that helps people, wildlife and the environment. Our aim is to influence water companies’ business plans so nature is put at the forefront of every decision they make. This is the first Blueprint of its kind in Wales and we’re excited to share the key messages with you that will benefit nature and the environment in the future.

Providing clean water and removing waste relies on nature and has a huge effect on the wildlife and landscapes we love. So in order to make sure our beloved landscapes and wildlife are cared for, we are working with water companies to take positive action for them. Over the next few months, companies will be drawing up their business plans for 2020-25. These plans will outline how water companies spend their money and, with £3bn expected to be spent in Wales on water and environmental management between 2020-25, this is a huge opportunity to ensure it is spent in ways that are good for people, nature and the environment.

Image of the documents at the event.

The Wales Environment Link Blueprint for PR19 in Wales is asking water companies in Wales to include five high level outcomes into their business plans. Here they are: 

Outcome A: Protect and Restore Catchments from Source to Sea.

A catchment is an area of land drained by a river system and these areas are crucial for biodiversity as they provide homes for all kinds of wildlife. Healthy functioning catchments can deliver multiple benefits for water companies and their customers through improved water quality, reduced flood risk and greater resilience to climate change. We are asking water companies to significantly extend investment in catchment management schemes which consider the water processes happening across the whole of the catchment when addressing water management issues. In doing this, they will work with partners including environmental NGOs to increase the amount of land in better stewardship. 

Outcome B: Stop the Pollution of our Waters

Despite progress over the last few decades, there is still a long way to go in addressing the health of Welsh rivers and water bodies. Only 37% of water bodies in Wales currently meet ‘good status’ defined by the EU Waterframework Directive. Pollution, from sources such as wastewater treatment works, agriculture, forestry and mining, poses one of the greatest challenges to achieving good status. We want to see water companies producing long term plans on how they deal with waste water to ensure sewerage and treatment systems will prevent pollution incidents. We recognise that water companies are not the only polluters. Nevertheless, we want to see companies aiming for zero pollution incidents and in the case where they do happen, we want companies to commit to self-reporting the incident. 

Outcome C: A Step Change for Biodiversity

Freshwater and wetland species are facing significant challenges. The State of Nature Report 2016 report indicated that 13% of the UK’s freshwater and wetland species are currently at risk of extinction. In Wales, we are seeing declines in much loved species such as the dipper. The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 requires all water companies operating in Wales to take steps to maintain and enhance biodiversity. This is an opportunity for water companies to make the change for wildlife that is so desperately needed. We are urging water companies to work with us to produce ambitious strategies for biodiversity that contain measures to help achieve the Nature Recovery Plan for Wales. 

Outcome D: Keep our Rivers Flowing and our Wetlands Wet

Although Wales is perceived to be water rich due to the amount of rainfall we receive, we are facing challenges in meeting the increasing demand for water. Taking more water from the environment poses risks to wildlife. The State of Nature 2016 Report identified changes in the amount of water available in rivers and water bodies as the third most significant driver for biodiversity loss. We are calling on water companies to think about the value of water left in the environment when they’re considering sources. We also want them to address any abstractions where the removal of water prevents reaching ‘good status’ as defined by the EU Water Framework Directive. 

Outcome E: Use Water Wisely and Price it Fairly

Due to climate change and population growth, demand for water in Wales is on the rise. Using water wisely benefits people, wildlife and the environment. If we waste less water, that means we can keep more in the freshwater environment. We are asking water companies to consider all options for reducing water demand in their business plans, including the promotion of water efficiency amongst customers and addressing leakages. 


Raise your Voice for Nature 

We are inviting you to join us in speaking up for nature. Your water companies will be engaging with you over the summer to ensure their plans align with your wishes. By contacting your water company you can support the aims that are included within the Blueprint for PR19 in Wales document, which will benefit people, nature and the environment. 

Over the next few weeks we’ll be launching more actions to take to support this campaign, stay tuned to our Twitter account @RSPB Cymru and the We Love Wales blog for more information. The full Blueprint for PR19 in Wales can be found here. If you are unsure who your water company is this map can help you identify your provider - http://www.water.org.uk/consumers/find-your-supplier