The Healthy Rivers program aims to make environmental improvements to several rivers in the South Wales valleys, in order to improve their ecological status under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).
In 2011, two thirds of Welsh water bodies were failing to achieve ‘good ecological status’ under the WFD. A majority of these failures were due to low populations of migratory fish, such as salmon and trout. Man-made infrastructures across rivers, such as weirs and sewerage pipes, create obstacles or barriers that migratory fish are unable to get passed in order to spawn and breed successfully. The Healthy Rivers program will work on the Nant Bargoed, Rhondda Fawr and Rhondda Fach to modify or remove 7 barriers to fish migration. Removal or modification of the barriers will allow migratory fish to successfully migrate up river to breed.
The Healthy Rivers program will also work with 6 local schools to deliver the ‘River Schools’ and ‘Salmon in the Classroom’ projects that are currently being run by Groundwork North Wales. The Rivers Schools program will engage children in river based activities, such as kick sampling for river insects, measuring river flows and making improvements to the river habitat. The Salmon in the Classroom project involves setting up a small scale salmon hatchery in the Groundwork Classroom. Local primary schools are then invited to see the salmon eggs and watch the fish develop. This project will help the children to learn about the life cycle of salmon, as well as some of the environmental issues that affect their survival. Once the salmon are large enough, the children will release them into local rivers.
Finally, the Healthy Rivers program will promote and facilitate volunteer opportunities with local people and local community groups. Healthy Rivers will run river clean-ups and litter picking events that volunteers will be encouraged to take part in.
The Healthy Rivers program has already proven to be successful through work carried out on the river Sirhowy, where the removal of barriers has allowed successful salmon migration and breading for the first time in 100 years. The Salmon in the Classroom project has proven to be popular with primary schools and over 50 adult volunteers have been involved in river improvement projects.