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Aysgarth Middle Falls in Autumn Trees along the River Ure

C3 – Rivers condition

Work with farmers and landowners to improve the condition of the Aire, Eden, Lune, Ribble, Swale, Ure and Wharfe so that at least 90% of all rivers achieve ‘good ecological status’ by 2027.

How the local partners are doing on this objective

Progress: Through Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming programme, the National Park Authority provided advice and support to more than 160 farmers in-person and many others at group meetings on how to improve water quality on farms, and reduce diffuse pollution in rivers.

The latest figures from the Environment Agency (2024) show that 51% of rivers in the National Park were in good ecological status. This is down from 62% in 2020, although it still compares favourably to the national average of 14%. Awaiting further data on the reasons for the decline in quality.

Press Releases & related articles:

16 August 2021 – Kicking to see what’s alive: wildlife surveys carried out

29 March 2021 – Farmers see case for riverside tree-planting

Yorkshire Post 22 June 2020 – How river restoration in the Yorkshire Dales is bringing back nature’s charm

Rationale: River water quality (47% in good condition) is amongst the best in England but still relatively poor.  The largest sources of pollution are: soil erosion; nitrates/phosphates from agriculture; and, historical lead mine workings.   The National Park’s rivers are also affected by a number of downstream barriers that prevent fish passage upstream.  These are long term issues and it is likely to be several years before the current investment starts to show significant improvements to water quality.

Lead partner:  Environment Agency

Supporting partners:  Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority; Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust; Ribble Rivers Trust; Lune Rivers Trust; Eden Rivers Trust, Upper Aire Land Management Project; Natural England; Forestry Commission

Further information:   Catchment Sensitive Farming;

Cost over 5 years:             £2,200,000

Funding shortfall:            n/a

Related objectives:           C1; C2; D3; D5; D7

Ecosystem services:    Water quality; Soil erosion; Regulating pests; Biodiversity

Trade-offs:  Tackling pollution could potentially have an impact on costs for farm businesses (E9) and on the conservation of historical lead mining sites (A6).  The former are mitigated through Catchment Sensitive Farming grants and cost savings from reductions in fertiliser usage.  The latter will be mitigated through careful design of any interventions of Scheduled Monuments.

Baseline: 47% of rivers in the former NP area were in good ecological status in 2017