Salmon return to the Clyde as water quality improves

Picture: John Devlin
Picture: John Devlin
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Glasgow’s River Clyde is now far less polluted than it used to be, with water quality improving and fish returning to areas that they have been unable to access for decades, according to monitoring work carried out by Scotland’s environmental regulator.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said the Clyde was in “significantly better health” than expected thanks to high levels of investment. Some parts of the river are now graded as “excellent” after recovering from years of pollution.

The river’s overall quality was previously ranked as “bad”, the worst possible category, but improved to “moderate” in 2015 and some stretches have now improved again.

Around 62 miles of waterways have been opened up by removing barriers to fish, with salmon reintroduced in higher parts of the river that they were previously unable to access. Pollution had driven the species to extinction in the river’s catchment area.

Sepa, which monitors the water quality in Scotland’s lochs and rivers, said the Clyde had also experienced fewer overflows from sewers and less pollution from agricultural sources.

The Scottish Government hailed what it described as a “lasting change in the Clyde’s fortunes” and said further efforts were under way to make more improvements.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “The Clyde flows through the very heart of Glasgow and for centuries the river has provided our largest city with a gateway to the world and a source of prosperity.

“However, since industrialisation in the early 1800s, we’ve abused this river, tipping our waste into it without a ­second thought for the impact it has on the communities ­living along the banks, water quality or the wider environment.”

She added that “hard work and investment” had seen water quality improve, aqua­tic species return, and eradicated “the stench which once made residents’ lives a misery”.

Between 2010 and 2021, Scottish Water will have invested more than £600 million in wastewater treatment works and sewerage systems in the area.

The Scottish Government has spent £3.1m on river restoration projects near Hamilton and Shotts through its Water Environment Fund.

Sepa chairman Bob Downes said: “Having a healthier River Clyde system is a real benefit to people living in Glasgow. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but seeing the results of the hard work that has already happened is very rewarding and encouraging.”