LOWER parts of the River Teifi have failed to achieve stricter targets for phosphate levels which have been set for Wales’ rivers.

A report has been published by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) outlining phosphate levels for all river Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) across Wales.

There are nine river SACs in Wales – Cleddau, Eden, Gwyrfai, Teifi, Tywi, Glaslyn, Dee, Usk and Wye – which support some of Wales’ most special wildlife like Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussel, white-clawed crayfish and floating water-plantain.

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) recommended that UK nature conservation organisations adopt tighter targets after considering new evidence about the environmental impacts of phosphate.

In addition, the predicted warmer and drier weather resulting from climate change could reduce river flows during the summer, and so increase phosphate concentrations.

Following the new measures, this evidence review shows that overall, phosphorus breaches are widespread within Welsh SAC rivers with over 60 per cent of river sections failing.

Lower parts of the Teifi failed 50 per cent of its targets.

The river with the highest level of phosphate failures was the Usk with 88 per cent of its water bodies failing their target. Previously published data about the Wye, as well as new data on the Cleddau shows that two-thirds of river sections

The Dee also failed to reach the standards in 38 per cent of sections while all waterbodies in three rivers in north Wales - the Eden, Gwyrfai and Glaslyn – as well as the Tywi.passed in all areas.

Ruth Jenkins, NRW’s head of natural resource management said: “Phosphate can cause significant ecological damage to rivers and can lead to the process of eutrophication in rivers, a highly problematic issue.

“Conservation standards were tightened as a means of safeguarding the river environment and countering the impacts of climate change. The new targets set for phosphate levels in our rivers are challenging – but rightly so.”

Eutrophication is the process by which a body of water becomes overly enriched with minerals and nutrients which induce excessive growth of algae. This process may result in oxygen depletion of the water body after the bacterial degradation of the algae.

Phosphate is naturally occurring, and is released slowly, at low levels, from natural sources, from natural bankside erosion for example. However, phosphates can also enter rivers from land management practices, sewerage and foul water that can contain detergents and food waste.

Each river and section of rivers will need different approaches and NRW will work with people and partners to create both national and local solutions.

The report suggests a number of areas where work can be focused, and includes working with planning authorities to help understand what the findings of the investigation could mean for their planning processes.

Ruth added: ““We all have a part to play to make sure that Wales’ rivers are healthy for future generations and we want to work with others to find innovative solutions.

“Simple changes we can each make in our everyday lives can help make a positive contribution to the reduction of phosphate levels and other forms of pollution affecting our rivers.”

NRW will commission further evidence reports to understand how Wales’ rivers comply with other ecological.

More than 2,600 data points, from January 1 2017 to December 31, 2019 were assessed for this report, covering 108 individual river sections.