Please find below the reports from your officers for the 2024 AGM:
The state of our river
You need only open a newspaper to read an article describing the poor state of our sewage infrastructure and its impact on water quality. Dig a bit deeper and you find the situation will likely get worse. New house building programmes are generating more effluent for sewage works and climate change is causing more severe flooding incidents that overwhelm sewage treatment works causing discharges directly into our rivers.
In September 2023 the Society wrote to Jeremy Hunt, our MP, outlining our concerns about water quality in the river Wey and the ability of local infrastructure to cope with future demands. You can see our original letter below. Jeremy did not know the answers to our specific questions but asked questions of Thames Water and the Environment Agency to try and get some answers.
We did receive replies from Thames Water and the Environment Agency. As expected, they were quite broad brush and corporate but some points of interest are summarised below:
1) The river Wey does not score highly when graded for habitat quality. Various factors are measured and the river is judged on the Lowest of these ratings. The river Wey has high phosphate levels and this score is in the bottom 25% nationally. However, the Environment Agency point out that the river is in a better state than the survey headlines would suggest. The river scores highly on other indices of habitat quality. This is encouraging particularly on the navigable sections of our river.
2) Sewage treatment work upgrades are budgeted for Godalming, Alton and Farnham and a new STW is being built for Guildford. These improvements and works are part of an ongoing plan to improve STW infrastructure in the area.
3) Although Thames Water are not automatically consulted when new housing developments are being planned, they are obliged by law to deal with the consequences of increased sewage. This seems odd given the pace of new housing development and the demands this is placing on our sewage infrastructure.
We have not got a definitive answer to our concerns and in all honesty neither do the agencies. The challenges faced by rivers nationally and locally are complex and solutions expensive. However, we felt it important to raise the issue on your behalf and it is encouraging to see how seriously the agencies took our concerns. We would like to thank Jeremy Hunt and his team for pursuing the matter on our behalf.
We will continue to highlight this issue in the interests of the Society and push forward what measures we can to improve water quality in our river,
Our original letter to Jeremy Hunt:
Godalming Angling Society currently has 1,952 active members. We lease 7 miles of the River Wey from Eashing bridge to Guildford and own just over a mile of fishing rights and land through Salgasson Meadows, upstream of Westbrook Mill in Godalming.
We want to raise the issue of untreated or partially treated sewage being released into the River Wey. Our members are worried about the management of discharges and the ability of the current infrastructure to cope with the challenges of the next five years.
As you are aware, faecal bacteria multiply rapidly and consume oxygen. This means that releasing untreated or partially treated sewage into rivers reduces the oxygen available to aquatic insects and animals (molluscs, crustacea, insects and fish) The Natural History Museum has reported that mayflies were wiped out on the River Wey in 2014. The small but important population of wild brown trout and grayling that remain in the river are dependent upon acceptable levels of dissolved oxygen. These species are, if you like, the “canary in the coal mine” and there are very few left.
The release of untreated sewage increases levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the river, resulting in algal blooms that block the light that plants need for photosynthesis. The absence of multicellular plants in the river upstream and downstream of Godalming is striking.
The Rivers Trust has categorised the River Wey in the Guildford and Waverley Borough area as being one of the poorest waterways in Surrey, falling into the bottom 25% of UK rivers for ecological health. This is the situation we are faced with today. Looking to the immediate future Waverley have said that between 2022-2027 a further 5.310 new dwellings need to be built in the borough. As of 2021 there are currently 32,582 dwellings in Waverley. This target represents a 16.3 % increase on our housing stock.
In addition, we face the likelihood of more severe flooding events fuelled by a warmer climate. These need to be planned for with extra capacity in the system rather than accepting that more flooding will simply mean more authorised discharge of raw sewage mixed with storm drain water.
Our members would like to know whether we have the local sewage infrastructure in place to cope with the immediate challenges of housing growth and flooding. Given the state of the river as it is the existing infrastructure does not seem fit for purpose. Are there plans to build more capacity into our local water treatment facilities and, if so, where are the funds and the land to build new capacity going to come from?
We await your response and will share your thoughts with our membership.
Keith Baxter and David Ewing
On behalf of the committee of Godalming Angling Society
Work is being carried out at Eashing during the morning of Saturday 3rd February. The fishery will remain open but there will be workers in the river in the first field. Work will be complete by 12am
We apologise for any inconvenience.