Environmentalists and boaters are wary bedfellows: most boaters are passionate about the environment, although not perhaps the full spectrum of increasingly politicised issues of our environmental friends. But at the same time, many boaters remember being stiffed by environmentalists over the Yorkshire Derwent and the Basingstoke; more recently, boaters have been frustrated by the increasingly irritating complaints of biologists in Environmental Impact Assessments, noting the focused opposition of certain environmental groups to the restoration of the Droitwich Canals, for example, and similar growling over the original planned restoration route of the Lichfield & Hatherton.
So it is with some alarm that it appears that the UK will not meet EU water quality deadlines by 2015. Time and time again, boats have been blamed for poor water quality on canals, when time and time again, it has been quite clear that agriculture and surface run-off from industrial sites and roads are the prime cause of local declining water quality.
Despite this, I can well see that boats will be unfairly targetted anew. Yet a number of surveys have shown that the presence of boats on a waterway actually usually reduces pollution. Although this seems curious and perhaps counter-intuitive, the rationale is quite straight forward. Pollution is generally diluted quite fast, even in the worst cases and so water ecosystems have been shown to be fairly resilient. One of the biggest problems is when pollution just stays in the same area beacuse of the low flow rates - such as on many canals. Even with a visible flow, the water flow on most canals is extremely slow. But when boats are regularly moving, mixing, churning the water, the dilutive process - even at a local level - is enhanced or even initiated in many cases. Boats help reduce pollution.
Sadly, there is a lack of relevant research in this area, but I suspect that, once again, boats will be cast as the easy culprits, and there may be attempts to reduce boat numbers or put ever more restrictive requirements on their operation.
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