The Water Framework Directive and Bradford Beck

Water in Bradford Beck is cleaner than it has been for many years though pollution can still occur.

More work needs to be done to bring back lost wildlife to a recreated water environment that restores natural conditions and is an asset to the city of Bradford.

Action through the European Water Framework Directive is one way this can happen.

A new deal for water: the Water Framework Directive

off Duncombe Rd red

This website you are reading supports a Europe-wide movement of like minded people working to improve their water environment.

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) which came in to force in December 2000, is the latest in a long line of legislation dating back to medieval times to protect and improve our rivers and streams.

From a low point in the late 19th Century, the quality of Yorkshire’s rivers has seen a slow but steady improvement. Prompted initially by concerns over public health, successive waves of legislation and improved infrastructure has meant our water courses are now cleaner than they have been since before the industrial revolution. Changes in our economy too have played their part with the disappearance of the most polluting industries.

Traditionally assessing the condition of our rivers was a job for chemists. Decades of monitoring chemical water quality has brought to end many harmful discharges. But today we expect more from our rivers than a flow of chemically clean water.

We want to see rivers of life, a home to aquatic creatures great and small and natural waterside vegetation. We want to see an attractive river channel resembling a pre-industrial ideal, before the innate behaviour of flowing water was constrained in a straight jacket of culverts, weirs, dams and brick and concrete channels.

There were good reasons why we engineered our watercourses. Weirs and water mills provided power, bridges were needed for a growing transport network, dam walls captured drinking water to satisfy our thirst and culverting allowed the growth of cities and towns. Many of these reasons are still relevant to our lives, as increasingly is the need to prevent flooding. But sometimes engineering no longer serves any purpose. The Water Framework Directive asks that where possible it should now be removed. Where structures must remain, the Directive urges us to look for ways of reducing its impact, such as building fish passes on weirs.

Apart from being better for wildlife and people, more natural watercourses are less likely to lead to damaging floods.

But who should say how we manage our rivers and streams?

Farmers, developers, industrialists, water companies, anglers, conservationists and local residents (to name but a few), all have their own needs and priorities for water.

To resolve this conundrum the WFD proposes the catchment based approach, creating a voluntary forum of interested parties to discuss, debate, plan and improve the water environment. Bradford Beck has its own group to care for it but is also of interest to the over-arching Aire and Calder Catchment partnership

In this partnership statutory bodies and voluntary groups work together to plan and promote environmental improvements on and around the rivers and streams of the Aire and Calder.

Bradford Beck: the WFD opportunities

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It is the job of the Environment Agency to monitor the waters of Bradford Beck and classify them each year against a set of Water Framework Directive (WFD) standards. Where those standards aren’t being achieved action is needed. WFD sets a date of 2027 for these standards to be met. Action by the Friends of Bradford Beck is one way these improvements can be made.

beck map

The Environment Agency has divided Bradford Beck to two parts. An upper rural portion known as Clayton Beck and a downstream urban section through the city centre. The boundary is on Cemetery Road, Lidget Green.

Clayton Beck

Monitoring is carried out for 15 different parameters on Clayton Beck and 12 of these were meeting the WFD objective in 2015. The numbers of aquatic invertebrates and plants were not what would be expected however. Also there was too much phosphate, a chemical linked with sewage or agricultural run-off. There is a high weir off Glenbrook Drive which would limit the movement of fish.

City Centre

The Environment Agency measures 15 parameters in this section of the beck and 13 of them (including fish) were meeting the WFD standard (2015). Again the aquatic invertebrate population is relatively poor, probably due to the in-stream habitat as chemically the water in the beck complies with all WFD standards. The main WFD opportunities along this part of the beck are reversing or at least ‘softening’ historical physical alterations.

Below Cemetery Road the nature of the Beck changes. There are weirs off Princeville Road which would be a barrier to the movement of fish. The beck lies in a deep, narrow, fast-flowing artificial channel, which is a poor habitat for wildlife. Then it is lost underground beneath the city centre, though pavement plaques laid by Friends of Bradford Beck show its course. Along Canal Road the beck flows through a sterile U-shaped, brick lined channel but beyond Poplar Road it lies in a semi-natural bed. There is great potential here for habitat improvements and a public open space. Before the confluence with the Aire near Shipley station, there is a weir used to measure the flow of water which could also restrict the movement of fish.

off Poplar Rd red

The environmental improvements which have taken place along Bradford Beck have been hard won. Through the work of Friends of Bradford Beck we hope this process will continue. But there is no room for complacency; pollution or inappropriate development can harm the beck and also set back its status under WFD.

Any pollution of Bradford Beck can be reported to the Environment Agency 24 hour incident hotline 0800 80 70 60

Keeping the Beck clean…

Not so long ago, Gary Rushworth the Project Officer for the Urban Diffuse Pollution project on Bradford Beck gave a short talk to a group in Shipley who are part of the Citizenship project run by Bradford People First . This project is for people with learning disabilities to teach them to become valued and active members of their local community.

Shortly after the talk, he received the poster illustrated here – despite slight inaccuracies the message is clearly getting through.

Well done both Gary and the citizens who helped create this.

Citizen Project

Citizen Project

Beckwalk 12th July. Pinch Beck, High Birks Beck and Hole Bottom Beck

Meeting place: 2pm at the path to the Great Northern Trail next to Thornton Primary School, Thornton Road, BD13 3NN (opposite Ashfield Road)

Parking On Thornton Road or park courteously in side streets

Bus Buses along Thornton Road towards Denholme and Keighley (696, 697, 698). Get off at Vine Terrace (opposite Terminus Fisheries)

Description A 5.5km walk between three valleys with some steep climbs. Although you don’t spend much time walking by the becks, this walk gives a fine sense of the network of tributaries that flow down from the Queensbury ridge into Bradford Beck. Bradford’s industrial heritage is also on show here.

Dogs welcome if under control.

Warning! This walk involves one very wet and muddy section, so make sure you are wearing suitable footwear.

Timing: 2-5 pm

Litter Pick on Saturday 21st March 2015

There were about 10 of us at the litter pick on Saturday morning, we were lucky that the weather was kind to us.

After a couple of hours hard picking we managed to get 20 bags full of litter plus another 4 bags worth of cans, bottles and plastic bottles to take to be recycled. Plus of course the usual shopping trolley, 3 tyres and a traffic cone!

The next Litter Pick is on Saturday 9th May at 10:00 till 12:00 – location to be announced nearer the time.