Rivers suffering in heatwave

RIVERS and their wildlife across East Anglia are suffering as a result of the current heatwave and the River Deben is in a “critical” condition, according to the Environment Agency.

By David Green

RIVERS and their wildlife across East Anglia are suffering as a result of the current heatwave and the River Deben is in a “critical” condition, according to the Environment Agency.

Water is being pumped into the Deben between Brandeston and Wickham Market and at Debenham after fish were seen in distress.

The condition of other rivers in Suffolk and Essex, especially the Crouch, Chelmer, Stour, Gipping and Fynn is also causing concern.


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Many ponds are drying up and important wetland areas are also under stress - including the famous “scrape” at the internationally important Minsmere bird reserve.

Jonathan Thompson, the Environment Agency's water resources team leader for eastern England, said underground bore hole water was being pumped into the Deben to increase oxygen levels.

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“Our own monitoring has identified fish in distress and we have also had reports from anglers and other members of the public,” he said.

Anglian Water was helping to improve the state of the river by pumping in water further upstream at Debenham.

Mr Thompson said problems had initially involved rivers in Essex and south Suffolk but they were now spreading north.

The Deben has been vulnerable to drought for many years and 10 years ago a big fish-saving operation went ahead after a dramatic drop in oxygen levels along the same stretch.

Ian Barthorpe, RSPB spokesman at Minsmere, said the dry and cracked state of the “scrape” was very unusual.

“It is not damaging as far as breeding birds are concerned because all the nesting at the scrape is over but it is all over from the point of view of the birds being a public spectacle. Most of them have gone, including the avocets,” he said.

Mr Barthorpe said staff would usually pump in water from the reedbeds but the disturbance could not be justified because two bitterns were still nesting.

“Of immediate concern is the fire risk on the reserve because everything is tinder dry - we desperately need some rain,” he added.

As the region's rivers and wetland areas suffer from the hot, dry conditions, restrictions have been introduced in some areas on the volume of water used for irrigating crops.

Farmers elsewhere have also been urged to use water wisely to help prevent further restrictions.

Figures to be released next week will show that this July was the hottest since records began more than 350 years ago.

East Anglia was bathed in hot and humid conditions again yesterday but weather forecasters predict more typical summer temperatures will return next week.

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