New testing for protected water off north Northumberland coast

Budle Bay. Picture by Jane Coltman
Budle Bay. Picture by Jane Coltman

An investigation into important ‘pockets’ of water around the Northumberland coast will look at high levels of nutrients which are affecting nature and wildlife.

Northumberland County Council's Public Health Protection unit, the Environment Agency and Natural England are to look at the cause of excessive richness, or eutrophication, of protected estuaries along the Holy Island and Budle Bay coastlines.

Partners will try to identify where nutrients, specifically nitrates, are entering streams and groundwater and running into the sea. High levels of nutrients are causing algae to grow which smothers important feeding grounds for wildlife.

Testing will involve analysing the use of nearby private water supplies and how these activities may be affecting the water quality in a bid to reduce levels of nitrate to protect important coastal habitats.

Coun Liz Simpson, deputy business chairman with responsibility for public protection, said: "Northumberland has miles of stunning coastlines which is home to millions of different species. We have to work together to protect these areas and to make sure local nature and wildlife will always have places to thrive."

Once the results have been collated, specialist teams will be able to work with surrounding landowners to make improvements to help protect the areas of water.

Andrew Turner, environment manager for the Environment Agency, added: "As well as adding to our spectacular coastline, the Holy Island and Budle Bay estuaries are important feeding grounds for many species. A team effort is needed to identify the sources of nitrate affecting these estuaries and to find a means of reducing nitrate run off."

Estuaries are bodies of water along the coast which are formed when freshwater from rivers, flows into and mixes with saltwater from the sea. These environments are among the most productive on earth which support unique communities of plants and animals specially adapted for life at the margin of the sea.