Walking the waterways to protect the environment

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THE Ayrshire environment is benefiting from the legwork of a local man who has been walking dozens of miles a week to look out for potential sources of pollution.

David Anderson, from Maybole, is on secondment from Scottish Water to SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) along with four colleagues in other priority areas of Scotland. Since starting their secondments, they have walked over 1000 miles of waterways.

David’s priority is to assess the Ayrshire coastal catchment – the area that feeds water to the region’s beaches – which goes inland to the Lugar Water in the Cumnock area.

By identifying and documenting potential causes and routes pollution could take, David and his fellow catchment officers can help farmers and land managers take action to prevent problems. Often the answers are simple and low-cost.

David said: “A clean water environment is essential for Scotland. I’m pleased to be working and training with SEPA staff to protect priority catchments.”

He added: “The knowledge and experience I’m gaining will be invaluable to Scottish Water and our need to protect the quality of drinking water supplies. We are making great strides forward to manage land and water resources in a more sustainable way for future generations.”

Now David and other SEPA staff are making individual land manager visits to find ways to prevent “diffuse” pollution. This is when rainfall washes nutrients, soil, chemicals and bacteria from the land into the surrounding water environment, affecting ecology, drinking water sources and bathing beaches.

For example, by allowing cattle to drink directly from a river the banks can be churned up, reducing the clarity and quality of the water. Another example is when pesticides are applied during wet weather, allowing rainfall to wash the chemicals into the water environment.

Stephen Field, SEPA’s Land Unit Manager, said: “Diffuse pollution is the largest cause of pollution in our water environment.

“There is no single organisation that can resolve the problem and it is for this reason that we need a partnership approach between organisations and stakeholders to raise awareness of the issues, stop them and protect Scotland rivers, seas and drinking water supplies.”

Stephen added: “Diffuse pollution arises from many different land use activities and much work – and walking – needs to take place to identify and understand how it affects our water environment. After their secondments, these Scottish Water staff will be experienced catchment officers who can take the skills they have learned and apply them to the protection of drinking water sources, as well as protecting the wider water environment from the diffuse sources of pollution they find.”