Category Archives: Pressures

Blue Lakes: “No micro-plastics, just waves”

The idea of a Blue lakes project was instigated by the NGO Legambiente in Italy. Other Italian NGOs followed along with two German groups, including Global Nature Fund.

The Project was subsequently funded through LIFE and the Plastics Europe. Their aim has been to reduce and perhaps even avoid entirely micro-plastics pollution in lakes. Taking an integrated approach, the facets of the project included:

  • Working with Municipalities in order to reduce plastic usage and waste;
  • Working with companies who could i.e. use alternative materials;
  • Promoting additional treatments stages in waste water treatment plants to remove micro-plastics; and to
  • Raise awareness amongst citizens and those responsible for the use of plastic products.

The five pilot lake catchments in Germany and Italy in the framework of the project are Lake Constance and Chiemsee in Germany and lakes Trasimeno, Garda and Bracciano in Italy.

The project has not only supported the local authorities in those areas with tools and information for them to effect appropriate policies and actions,  but have also developed a Lakes Charter seeking voluntary commitments to adopt methods to reduce and avoid micro-plastic release to lakes and heir watersheds.

Further, there has been a technical protocol developed for managers and technical advisers on the improvement measures that can be implemented at waste water treatment plants. At the project management level, all the partners have developed working relationships with the key relevant industries: principally, tyre, cosmetic and outdoor industry, with a view to identifying further measures that can be taken. At the political level, influence is being levied to improve the legal framework and public awareness significantly elevated.

Bespoke designed trawl nets take surface water samples for micro-plastic sampling and identification of lake surface waters. Lago Bracciano.

LIFE: The European Union’s LIFE programme supported Blue Lakes and contributes to the implementation, updating and further development of the EU policy and legislation on the environment and climate. Through the LIFE programme, the EU co-funds innovative projects that demonstrate the effectiveness of new techniques and methods in the environmental field.

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Award for Haweswater

The Swindale Valley Restoration Project, a partnership involving United Utilities, the Environment Agency, Natural England and the RSPB has won a major nature conservation award, the ENDS Environmental Impact Award for 2017.
A tributary of the River Eden, Swindale Beck, runs through Swindale Valley, forming part of the RSPB’s landholding at Haweswater. A sizable stretch of the river was straightened at least 200 years ago in an attempt to provide more land for grazing and hay making.
However, this modification has caused serious problems for Atlantic salmon as the straightened and fast flowing channel does not provide the different habitats, normally found in natural meandering rivers, which they need to successfully spawn.  The UK is a stronghold for Atlantic salmon, however, the numbers returning to spawn have halved since the 1970s.
Working in partnership with the Environment Agency, landowners United Utilities and Natural England, the RSPB is restoring part of this artificial stretch of the river, enabling it to revert to its former slower-flowing, meandering course.
This is being achieved by digging a new channel along a carefully mapped route, redirecting the water flow, then filling in the old straightened section to create a more suitable and productive meadow that will help support the farm, as well provide a home for wildflowers and insects.
The restoration of Swindale Beck is jointly funded by the Environment Agency, Cumbria Waste Management Environment Trust and United Utilities.

Oliver Southgate, River Restoration Project Manager at the Environment Agency, said: “River restoration projects like this can provide multiple benefits for both people and wildlife. By working in partnership with other organisations and landowners, we can truly make a difference and return some of our constrained rivers back to their former natural glory.
“The Cumbria River Restoration programme is working across the whole of the region in a bid to safeguard our special areas, enhance wildlife and create a better place for people.”

Paul Phillips from United Utilities said: “This will bring big benefits to water quality as well as wildlife. A more natural channel will be broad and shallow in times of flood and slower to deliver water into the River Lowther. Sediments and gravels will be deposited more naturally with less reaching Haweswater reservoir.

by Tony Dean