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River Special Areas of Conservation Background

River Wye - Footbridge NR Marteg Bridge

What are river SACs?

Special Areas of Conservations (SACs) are internationally important protected sites which make a large contribution towards conserving the habitats and the species which live there. There are nine river SACs designated across Wales which protect habitats and species such as lamprey, otters and Atlantic salmon. SACs are protected under 'The Habitats Regulations'.

What is the issue?

Phosphorus is a nutrient which occurs naturally in the environment. Human activity such as rural land use, wastewater treatment works (WwTWs), and private sewage treatment works have added more phosphorus to the river network.

An increase in levels of phosphorous in a river can cause a process called eutrophication. This process may cause 'algal blooms' which can impact negatively on river health and biodiversity.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has undertaken a Compliance Assessment of the Welsh river SACs against tightened phosphorus targets set by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) in 2016. Of the SAC waterbodies assessed across Wales, 61% failed to meet the phosphorus targets.

Which River SAC Catchments are affected in Powys?

Large parts of the river Wye and river Usk SAC catchments, as well as small areas of the river Tywi and river Dee SAC catchments are within Powys. A map showing the river SAC catchments can be found here: Compliance Assessment of Welsh River SACs against Phosphorus Targets.