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  • Ashley Smith

What's happening Day.

22 October. WODC continued its drive to improve river quality and held the follow up to the 2018 Water Day.

It was an event at which the EA laid a lot of strange cards on the table, WASP responded and laid some challenging slides on top, and Thames Water cancelled its presentation to specifically talk about the WASP concerns.

The irony of this 1553 image will reveal itself

Over the coming days and weeks, the WASP blog will look at what was said at Water Day, and delve into the evidence as we promised on the day. But let's make it interesting as well.

Here is the opening scene.

First up was the Environment Agency

Last year you may remember the EA told us the Windrush was in a great state but moderate ecological status, citing wonderful invertebrate catches at Newbridge near Bourton. and very healthy water quality - you had to know that evidence was taken at the head of the river to not be fooled by that rosy picture, and many of you knew a very different story based on the evidence of your own eyes and experiences.

The EA was calling the Windrush turbidity ''the natural colour of the River Windrush'' based on what WASP drew out as a 1996 PhD study. We questioned the relevance of that in the light of a very different scene 22 years later and the EA made an undertaking to conduct a new study.

Promises of a thorough independent study were watered down to the EA doing it in house but nothing was actually happening until WASP set the hares running with its own turbidity assessment after we revealed the murky Newbridge/Thames scenes on BBC TV South Today on 17th July.

See it on our YouTube Channel

In a bizarre and misleading statement to the BBC, the EA dismissed claims the river is polluted yet recognizes that is polluted in its own data. There is much more to come on that subject in an upcoming blog.

Why turbidity matters

The Windrush readings are marked in the broken red lines on the guide.

WASP made a simple assessment using sophisticated equipment loaned to us by ''In Situ'' instruments. The river was like this for months as many of you know.

At that point, the Agency, which had decided to conduct a new study into the cause of the new levels of Windrush turbidity because it did not know the answer, declared to the public in a press statement that: The River Windrush appears cloudy at times, but this is probably because of prolonged dry weather and natural conditions…

Shortly afterwards it seems the EA started its own study, presumably to find out if what is said was true..

Environment Agency poster at Water Day.

An EA geologist suggested that the recent state of the river was likely to be the consequence of a geological fault that occurred 60 million years ago. It was linked to clay, we heard, but how that results in extreme turbidity in low flow conditions was unconvincing and the Agency admitted it had not studied the makeup of the particles in suspension yet.

It may have been better if the Agency had said it just did not know and had an open mind until it had a more conclusive and evidence-based study.

How and why the river suddenly decided to do this after 60 million years is less clear to many people, including us.

Brown Windrush on the right entering a much clearer Thames. How many people used to see it the other way around?

Maybe the study was more thorough and convincing than it looked on the day, so WASP has requested the full report and data, under the Environmental Information Regulations. We will let you know what arrives and make it available.

In WASP we do have open minds about it but are less eager than the EA to rule out increases in sewage effluent and sewage pollution (especially as we know these have increased with development whilst the geology has probably remained the same) until we have seen the evidence tested.

Part 2 coming soon.

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