The human body is 90% water. Next to the air we breathe, we depend most for life itself on water

The human body is 90% water. Next to the air we breathe, we depend most for life itself on water – as do most animate creatures. It follows then, that the purity and security of water supply now and for the future is literally of vital importance. ‘Water is not a commercial product like any other but, rather, a heritage which must be defended and treated as such’. This defence was up until now pursued on an ad hoc basis, country by country, region by region. But now the European Union has developed a vision for the future management of this most precious of resources by setting minimum standards for different water types (ground, river, sea-bathing, etc). It is about the most ambitious single piece of legislation ever initiated, and based on several abiding principles: sustainable development, prevention of pollution at source and the polluter pays. Equally important is the proposed management of rivers on a catchment basis. Where small catchments are concerned (eg. West Wales River Basin) river basins will be grouped together.

The Dee has special status, the Severn and Wye are effectively managed from England. And there is a time table which runs from 2002 to 2020 which member state governments are bound to adhere to. At present they are running 3 years behind time. ‘The appointment of competent authorities’ was due to be completed in 2003, but that is only now taking place. The regulators (the Environment Agency) are required ‘to involve all interested parties in the protection of water’, and this is where Welsh angling bodies and fishery owners have blown their horns. The Environment Agency needed to be persuaded that we, custodians and ‘owners’ of waters, were ‘interested parties’ sufficient to be accorded a seat on the highest of the three-tier panel of advisers. You may be sure government bodies – CCW, County Councils, Port Authorities, Forestry, Farmers’ Unions, CLA, National Parks and Sea Fisheries are all there in strength and depth, but no suitably experienced fisheries representative. We do have ‘back-door’ representation by virtue of members who are, incidentally, anglers, but who carry wider, vaguer briefs, like ‘recreation’ and ‘water quality’. Alright, there is to be an ‘Overarching’ fisheries advisory committee. But that is a Welsh Assembly (with its limited powers) talking shop, not quite one with its fingers on the pulse of EU decision-making. It’s not good enough. We will not let it rest there! Lynn Hughes (Conservation Secretary WSTAA).