HL Deb 02 November 1998 vol 594 cc4-5WA
Earl Peel

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What monitoring is being undertaken of the biodiversity of the River Ure in Yorkshire; and whether they are satisfied that an effective monitoring system is in place to enable the Environment Agency to assess whether long-term damage is occurring to the biodiversity of the river as a result of water abstraction; and [HL3565]

Why the Environment Agency has not used its power under Section 21 of the Water Resources Act 1991 to determine a minimum acceptable flow for the River Ure in Yorkshire; and whether it will now, using its powers under Section 22 of the Act, direct the agency to exercise its powers under Section 21 in the interests of protecting the biodiversity of the river. [HL3563]

Lord Whitty

The Environment Agency is undertaking a detailed and extensive environmental monitoring programme of the biodiversity of the River Ure for the specific purpose of assessing the impact of water abstraction. This encompasses river flow, water quality, including temperature, river habitat, aquatic plants, macro-invertebrates, including crayfish, fish and angling surveys, as well as collecting information on birds and otters. Although the Environment Agency recognises the importance of the concept of minimum acceptable flows, it has not so far found it necessary to use its statutory power to establish such a flow on any river in England and Wales. The agency prefers to use the more flexible approach of setting flow rates as conditions in granting new licences. This enables the agency to address future ecological needs in a given river more quickly and easily than by changes to a statutorily set minimum acceptable flow. The Government have no plans to direct the agency to exercise these particular powers.