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Groundwater-fed rivers slow to respond to nitrate control measures


Research shows that rivers with a higher groundwater baseflow contribution are responding very slowly to restrictions put in place to control nitrate pollution. Five rural river catchments in the UK which have long-term nitrate data were investigated by researchers at Durham University. Overall the findings were disappointing with nitrate levels in rivers declining much slower than expected. The only catchment which showed a clear decline in nitrate levels was the Leet Water catchment which is predominantly clay with high surface run-off allowing water to be circulated through the catchment quickly. In contrast the River Frome, a mainly groundwater-fed river, has rising nitrate levels due to long-term storage and release of nitrate from the underlying chalk aquifer. Nitrate pollution in the UK is seen as a serious threat to achieving good ecological status of water bodies by 2015 under the Water Framework Directive.

The full article prepared by researchers at Durham University has been published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal here

To find out more about the Nitrates Directive and the measures in place to reduce nitrate pollution please visit the Environment Agency web site here


Standard permits issued under the Environmental Permitting Regulations to be revised


The Environment Agency is proposing changes to 15 standard permits issued under the Environmental Permitting (EP) Regulations. Standard permits are issued for activities that are considered to be lower risk and are covered by a generic risk assessment and a standard set of rules.

As part of the planned changes the discharge of enzyme treated sheep dip will no longer be permitted in specific Biodiviersity Action Plan habitats such as groundwater-fed water bodies. Other standard permits that are due to be changed include the licensing of mobile plants for the treatment of contaminated materials. The current standard permit will be extended to include groundwater ‘pump and treat’ operations.

Consultation on the proposed changes to the standard permits is open until 29 November 2010.

For more information please visit the Environment Agency web site


July brings wettest month of the year


While July was the wettest month of the year so far, the distribution of rainfall across the UK was uneven. Currently water-stressed areas of north-west England, western Scotland and north Wales received above average rainfall during July, while rainfall in southern and eastern England remained low. Groundwater levels tend to continue their seasonal recession but remain within their normal summer range. High soil moisture deficits across aquifer outcrop areas, particularly in the south and east, may delay winter recharge.

To read the full hydrological summary for July please visit the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s web site


Permeable reactive barriers effective in the long-term


Researchers at a site near Belfast installed a zero-valent iron filing based permeable reactive barrier to remediate a site contaminated with trichloroethene (TCE). Recent testing has shown that after more than 10 years after the barrier was installed the technique is still working with groundwater being successfully treated although iron precipitation has occurred within the iron filings. Permeable reactive barriers are used as a remediation technique to clean groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents, they can remain in the ground for many years but until recently their effective life-span was untested.

To learn more about the research project please visit


North West anticipates hosepipe ban after water shortages


The driest start to the year since 1929 sees many reservoirs in the North West of England at under half capacity. This has forced United Utilities, the public water supplier for the region, to apply to the Environment Agency for drought permits to increase the amount of water it can remove from lakes and rivers to maintain essential supplies to customers. The majority of the water supplied in the region is from rivers, lakes and reservoirs, the levels of which can drop off quickly in dry weather. The North West is less reliant on groundwater resources (~15% of the water supply), which do not respond as much to short periods of low rainfall. Groundwater resources may be used to augment water supplies in the North West.

The Environment Agency who will help United Utilities manage any drought conditions has advised that the North West is an exception and water supplies in the remainder of England and Wales are not greatly affected.

To read the Environment Agency press release please visit

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