How much water is enough for a hydro? EA hydro guidence consultation. My view

copper polluted with no resident fish in the depeted reach and 30m tall waterfall stopping migration (to the next set of 5 waterfalls). this is could be treated in the same way as some of the best salmon fishing rivers in the UK

copper polluted with no resident fish in the depleted reach and 30m tall waterfall stopping migration (to the next set of 5 waterfalls). Under the options approach this river could be treated in the same way as some of the best salmon fishing rivers in the UK. Bespoke it certainly is for abstraction since we also need to maintain the visual aspect as well as the ecological features

Its been a busy few weeks discussing with quite a few people around the current draft document from the EA on hydro development guidance and seeing which one of the proposed 4 options are the best for conserving ecosystems and generating renewable energy. Its been called the flow split approach which is something which has been in place in N Wales for a while now but not so in SE Wales and then you get to England and all is different again. We do need consistency but it’s also not clear what we are trying to fix plus the impact of unintended consequences. Working for the National Trust has given me a unique position to see both sides of the discussion. I have been having long chats with hydro developers (as we are one) and environmental and conservation bodies (we are primarily one of these) Reminds me of the time when i was a warden during the foot and mouth time. we were in between open the footpaths and keep the footpaths closed debate. As an orgaisation we don’t sit on the fence but have a good vantage point to weigh facts or see the lack of facts (data) and come out with something which we are comfortable with. The one thing which is clear is that an option 1 or 4 split is very simplistic especially as we know all hydros are bespoke as all the catchments are different. Asking a stressed statutory body official to deviate from the guidance because the hydro under consideration is ‘different’  ie no fish or chance of them, or a high head with plenty of water coming in lower down the depleted reach  will very difficult for an officer to assess and builds in delay. We all need one thing which is certainty (as well as protection, speed, consistency and pragmatism) but certainty in the guise of ‘no you cant’ or ‘you have a chance’ as I saw in Scotland is still missing in the options approach. There are sites where you should not go near with a hydro because of the ecological features there but there are others where they would make good sites. The options approach treats all of them as the same which builds in uncertainty and people could waste a lot of money where a simple ‘no’ at the start would suffice. But there again we are missing a lot of data on why ‘no’ We also have approaches being bandied around such as ‘cumulative impact’ in catchments. What this means is down to an individuals interpretation – research is needed so that we can get some form of certainty even if it’s highlighting that we have a problem so that the applied precautionary principle is not based on individuals interpretation. Lock three ecologists in a room and you will get 5 opinions (old saying changed economists for ecologists). It will be interesting to see which way this goes. We need to harness these environmental services for energy but not at any cost. Too precautionary and the micro and peco sector could be decimated where there might have been no threat to ecosystems (lack of research). The EA themselves have stated that any of the options will deliver what is required. There are ecological horror stories coming from Europe on certain hydros but not so from the UK because of the bespoke approach. What is missing though is the research element so that we can optimise  these systems as we move forward or if needed not build them at all in certain sites.  (certainty) and then we get to the split which is about to happen in EA Wales and England with the formation of the new all-encompassing body in Wales and will they take a different view of things but that’s another story!

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2 Responses to How much water is enough for a hydro? EA hydro guidence consultation. My view

  1. awelshman says:

    I think we also need greater clarity over whether the results of the Environment Agency’s consultation will even apply to Wales given the creation of Natural Resources Wales next month. Have seen the question asked of Welsh Ministers several times but they seem to have no idea.

    • Keith Jones says:

      agree with you. Saw Llyr Griffiths ask last week and it was a ‘we must speak again answer’ i have a feeling that Wales might surprise people with this one in terms of their approach and since its guidance then does not require legislation its about interpretation and application. i have seen it work in Scotland but Government there are leading in terms of getting agencies and people to work together. i know its not part of the WG devolved work but planning and getting agencies to streamline and give clarity is.

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