Today is Blog Action Day. This year's theme is Water. You can read more about the vast number of issues relating to water here. Blog Action Day is also asking people to sign a petition to support an International Water Treaty to ensure clean water for everyone. It is a scandal that in the Twenty First Century about 4,500 children across the world die every day from unsafe water and lack of sanitation.
This post though looks at water for wildlife, specifically along the Water of Leith. The Water of Leith is one of the rivers that runs through Edinburgh and as many readers of this blog know, I help to look after part of that river.
The Water of Leith was the most polluted river in Scotland in 1864 but it is now clean enough to support trout and otters. Many UK rivers are a lot cleaner now than they used to be, though there are still pollution issues with our waterways. The Water of Leith runs through Edinburgh, which is a major city and so the river suffers sometimes from sewage overflows, inflows of industrial pollutants (specially from garages) and littering (including large items such as shopping trolleys and car doors).
The Water of Leith Conservation Trust was the first charity set up in Scotland specifically set up to protect a river. It does a wonderful job, helped by a large number of volunteers, many of whom are ercruited from local businesses and community groups, including youth groups. The volunteers are vital to helping to keep the river and the walkway alongside it clean and attractive. There are around 20 volunteer patrollers (including me) who walk along a particular stretch of the river, recording wildlife, picking litter, pruning back vegetation and reporting major issues (such as pollution or large rubbish issues). Then there are the clean up volunteers who go out regularly to tackle those bigger rubbish problems or who attempt to control the spread of invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed.
The volunteer patrollers met last night (as we do every few months) to discuss the current issues facing the river and how to address them. One new idea that came up is to have a small group of volunteers who can respond at short notice to medium sized rubbish issues - the pile of rubbish that one person couldn't deal with but that wouldn't offer enough work for a clean-up team to be kept occupied. We were also pleased to hear that the local Environmental Wardens are going to step up actions against people who put dog poo into bags and then throwing it into trees or the river or hang it on fences, which is a disgusting habit and increasingly seen along the river.
Clean rivers are vital for wildlife and for human recreation, in some places also for drinking water. Organisations such as the Water of Leith Conservation Trust make a huge difference to the state of our rivers and the wildlife that lives along them. The UK Rivers Network is a useful source of information about rivers and river campaigns in the UK.
For Blog Action Day