It’s action time! A campaign for cleaner seas for a healthy planet.

Last year I took part in a clean water ‘paddle out’ organised by Surfers Against Sewage. Joining others on boats and kayaks, we swam to the diving board off the Hoe, having persuaded a friendly kayaker to transport our banner. 

The message was one that we’ve heard a lot recently; pollution is damaging our oceans. We need to take action to clean our rivers and reduce the toxins that are finding their way into the sea.

One cause of pollution is sewage leaks that occur when we have large rainfall. Drains become overwhelmed, and overflow, causing sewage to seep into water courses. Sewage is bad on lots of levels; high nitrates cause algae blooms, and sewage water is packed full of unpleasant bacteria. Further run off from roads leads to particles from tyres, engine oil, diesel and petrol added to the mix.

Poor agricultural practice, such as ploughing in a way that channels water downwards, and cultivating too close to hedges, means fields lose top soil into rivers, along with anything else that has been spread onto the land; a toxic soup of pesticides and nitrates.

This may all sound like someone else’s problem. There’s no doubt that decisive action by the water companies to clean-up their act and improved farming practices would be where the greatest gains would be made. However as individuals we can still help to reduce water pollution.

Firstly when it rains, water needs somewhere to go. Hard surfaces offer no absorption, so reduce paved areas and replace them with garden. Where hardstanding is unavoidable, plant a rain garden to help mitigate the run-off. For tips visit https://www.rhs.org.uk/garden-features/rain-gardens. You can also install a pond for the same effect.

Catch as much water as you can in water buts, or buckets will do. You will be grateful of this water later when we do have a spell of dry weather.

Support the reintroduction of beavers, who are nature’s greatest eco-champions when it comes to clean water, increased ecology and wetland creation.

Avoid astro-turf at all costs. Not only will the water run rapidly off it, it will take shedding micro-plastics with it, adding to the problem of plastic pollution.

When it is very wet it is essential to reduce the quantity of water we send down the drains. Only flush your toilet when you absolutely have to. Install a compost toilet if you can. Reduce washing by wearing clothes until they are actually dirty; a quick air on a clothes line may well be all that is needed to freshen up. Wash on dry days, so washing water isn’t competing with rain. 

When choosing clothes avoid synthetic materials. A Guppy Bag can be used for your washing, which removes plastic microfibres from the water. This can be purchased from the World Wildlife Fund shop: https://shop.wwf.org.uk.

Dispose of fats properly; these should never be sent down the sink. Instead keep a container lined with paper that you can decant any excess fat into.

Support the campaign for a 20m buffer zone around water courses; this will have the added benefit of providing a wildlife corridor, so a win-win all round. Wikipedia has a good description of the function of buffer strips: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffer_strip.

Buy organic. There are a number of small scale, non-polluting food producers in Cornwall. Supporting these will help the industry to grow. 

Surfers Against Sewage Big Paddle Out takes place at Plymouth and Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth on Saturday the 18th May. For more information visit sas.org.uk.

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