LETTER: Who needs rivers?

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The Independent Online
From Mr Chris Newton

Sir: Michael Price's article "How anguished anglers stop us hosing the roses" (Science, 22 August) was enlightening on the causes and effects of drought, but he seems to dismiss adequate river flows as important only to anglers and people in picture-postcard villages. Surely environmental considerations and the needs of wildlife are the major concerns - and I say that as an angler.

Small lowland rivers (whether or not people fish in them) are often vulnerable to drought, particularly if they are not protected from abstraction. When a stream is allowed to run dry we get a short-term ecological catastrophe, with local population extinctions of some creatures, particularly the many insects that live out their developmental stages under water.

Consistently low flows will change the ecology of a stream and lead to the disappearance of many species and hardship for many more. If the watercourse is tainted by the run-off from farmland, loss of flow may kill it through oxygen starvation.

When flows on salmon and sea-trout rivers drop in a dry summer, the fish, unable to travel upstream to complete their spawning cycle, become easy prey for estuary netsmen and poachers. Anglers usually leave these fish in peace because they quickly become unwilling to take a fly or lure.

Don't worry about anglers - we can usually find somewhere else to fish, if we are not persuaded to stay at home and catch up with the decorating. Mayflies, frogs, kingfishers and otters have fewer options, to say nothing of the fish themselves. It is their problems that should concern us in a drought, whether or not we have ever held a fishing-rod.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Newton

Stroud,

Gloucestershire

22 August

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