Aldford Brook Catchment

 

Farmers have been taking part in an Environment Agency funded project working with Reaseheath’s Farm Environmental Services along several groups of tributaries of the River Dee which have been selected as a result of their poor water quality with significant elements of pollution arising from agriculture.

Evidence shows that the ecological status of Aldford Brook has deteriorated from GOOD status in 2009 to MODERATE status in both 2013 and 2015. This is thought to be due to decreased dissolved oxygen levels caused by increased phosphates and sediment from agricultural sources. Aldford Brook is a tributary of the River Dee which is nationally important because:

-It’s one of the UK’s premier spawning grounds for Atlantic Salmon and Sea Trout.

-It has internationally important salt marshes and mudflats for wintering wildfowl on the Dee estuary.

-It provides drinking water for more than 2 million people in northeast Wales, Chester and Merseyside.

This project was funded by the Environment Agency, and delivered in partnership with The Welsh Dee Trust, United Utilities, Dee Valley Water and Reaseheath College.

This project aimed to:

  1. Reduce the amount of phosphate and other pollutants entering Aldford Brook by providing targeted farm advice and mitigation measures to improve the quality of water entering the Aldford Brook catchment.
  2. Increase biodiversity
  3. Increase flood attenuation opportunities

Funding for Improvements:

A number of farms in the catchment of the Aldford Brook have had walkovers and water management plans on the brooks which helped to identify some projects which received funding from the Environment Agency to implement improvements that would help reduce the risk of soil and nutrient inputs.  Farmers in the catchment have also received soil assessment to inform more precise manure and fertiliser planning, diagnose any problems with soil structure, and help with fencing and new water supply to help protect banks from erosion where cattle currently drink from the brook.  This is all part of efforts to keep sediment where it belongs in the field.  Whole field losses of soil sediment through field drains are another significant pathway for sediment entering the brook, particularly from bare stubbles such as maize ground, but also from grassland where soil structure is poor.  Farmers have been advised on how to manage land to minimise sediment loss, and opportunities identified where sediment can be trapped and removed from ditches with minor low cost infrastructure.  Enabling farmers to manage land to minimise siltation, and supporting sediment trapping before water leaves the farm, is a positive way of keeping drainage operating whilst dealing with ditch siltation issues in the post-dredging era.

Aldford farmers have been enthusiastic in addressing issues with current projects on 5 farms with a focus on fencing and trough and feeder relocation away from the brook.  In total there will be 2.8km of fencing, over 1,500m of new water pipe and 12 new or relocated water troughs away from the brook.  We also have a farm trying a solar powered water pump to supply a trough in a situation where installing a water pipe is not practical. Reaseheath’s advisors have been working closely with the Environment Agency’s hydrologists and ecologists to design the structure and plan the works to ensure minimum impact on any wildlife using the woodland.  Such measures are relatively low-cost to install, and part of the suite of measures known as Natural Flood Management that is being seen as a key contributor to whole catchment flood management in the future.

The Reaseheath Farm Environmental Services team are committed to improving the bioeconomy through partnership projects across the North West working with farmers and land owners to minimise the impact they have on the soils and waterways.

If you would like to find out more about the Alford Brook project please contact us.