A group of organisations from across Cumbria has come together in partnership to ensure that Windermere gets the focus it needs to face a challenging future.
Nutrients, climate change, more extreme weather patterns and the seasonal variations of the tourist population are all predicted to put the lake and its water quality under increasing pressure in the coming years.
Long-term records show that over that last 70 years the average annual surface temperature of Windermere has increased by 1.7 degrees C, leading to conditions that favour the growth of algae and reduce levels of oxygen.
The Love Windermere partnership has members from a broad range of sectors with the range of expertise and influence needed to bring about action.
Led by the Environment Agency, the partnership includes the Lake District Foundation, Freshwater Biological Association, Lake District National Park Authority, National Farmers Union, National Trust, South Cumbria Rivers Trust and United Utilities.
Sarah Swindley, CEO of the Lake District Foundation, said: “Our job at the LDF is to inspire people to care for all aspects of the Lake District. It’s only by working in partnership that we can ensure that beautiful Windermere can be enjoyed by generations to come.”
Lake District National Park Authority’s Chief Executive, Richard Leafe, said: “Windermere plays a key role in the lives of communities and visitors to the National Park, so it’s vital we work together with partners to improve the health of the lake.
“Love Windermere is set to be the most ambitious environmental partnership to date and we’re proud to take part. From individual action on septic tanks to working with land managers and the utility company, the programme will combine expertise with new data to tackle the current challenges and bring long-term benefits to everyone who enjoys Windermere and the National Park beyond.”
The group is developing evidence-based, long-term plans to maintain and improve water quality in the lake while balancing the needs of nature, the community and the local economy.
One of the first aims of Love Windermere is to collate more scientific evidence to understand which solutions will be most effective and to help prioritise activity.
Actions are also taking place to understand what local people think. The Environment Agency recently hosted a citizens’ panel to engage with the community and raise awareness of the challenges affecting the lake. More than 20 residents got involved and gave their recommendations on where they want to see action start.
“Love Your Lake – The Big Windermere Survey”, took place on Sunday 26 June, with 100 volunteers sampling water at various points around the lake and its tributaries. The results will help experts at Lancaster University and the Freshwater Biological Association to produce the largest ever one-day snapshot of conditions in Windermere.
Other activities this summer include:
- South Cumbria Rivers Trust is working with volunteers to restore reed beds around the north of the lake, encouraging natural processes to remove nutrients from the lake sediment.
- The Lake District Foundation is working with owners of septic tanks to develop community emptying schemes and share tips about how to best manage private sewerage systems
- United Utilities is working with food outlets and restaurants in and around Windermere with tips to avoid constricting sewers with fatty waste which can lead to sewage spilling into the environment.
- South Cumbria Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency are trialling innovative technology that if successful could be used to remove nutrients from septic tank effluent at a relatively low cost.
- The Environment Agency will take samples and monitor water quality at four bathing water locations on Windermere until the end of the bathing water season in September, while farm inspections across the catchment will continue to focus on reducing diffuse pollution.
The work to improve Windermere will be a long-term challenge, and there is still much to learn about the complex issues affecting the lake.
However, it is hoped that the collaborative approach demonstrated through Love Windermere could set out a blueprint for improving the health of rivers and lakes across the UK.