The Love our Rivers Checklist

7 ways you can help care for the Rivers Usk and Wye — from work or home.

Rising on the slopes of Pumlumon and the Black Mountain respectively, the Rivers Wye and Usk are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).  

But they’re both in crisis. In fact, their phosphate levels are among the highest in Wales — causing year-on-year water pollution and damage to the plant and animal life that reside there.

Here at Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park, we’re on a mission to help save the rivers. Through the Usk Catchment Partnership we are bringing a range of stakeholders together, from farmers and water companies to organisations like Natural Resources Wales, in a concerted effort to find solutions to our river health crisis.

But with so many contributing factors at play, including the effect of household and business waste, we need all the help we can get to change the rivers’ fate.

Read on for our checklist of seven everyday changes you can make, to help care for the rivers from work or home…

1. Don’t put kitchen waste down the drain.

Oil, eggshells, fat, coffee grinds, pasta, and rice — these items accidentally swirl their way down our drains all the time, causing blockages and leaks galore… But did you know that they contribute to river pollution too?

Our advice is to be mindful when you’re wearing the Marigolds, but savvy too… If you have a small amount of fat, cooking oil or fatty food leftovers to discard, you can recycle them in your food waste caddy. However, large amounts of cooking oil should be taken to your local household waste recycling centre. You can find more info on this via Natural Resources Wales.

2. Choose ecofriendly products.

Whether it’s from washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, washing machine detergents or cleaning sprays — thousands of household chemicals are washed into our rivers every week.

From Smol to Method and SESI, there are plenty of brands that offer products without harmful fragrances, preservatives, and synthetic dyes — and you can buy SESI Refill at a great price from the National Park Visitor Centre in Libanus. Don’t forget — as we’ll be operating as a refill centre, you’ll either need to bring your own container or buy one on arrival.

Choosing sulphate-free shampoo, conditioner and body washes will also make a difference, but we know how confusing it can be. If you’re ever unsure in the supermarket, it’s worth checking the labels for eco-certification, as follows:

  • Certified B Corporation
  • Cradle to Cradle
  • Eco-cert
  • EU Eco Label.

3. Clean your home — or business — responsibly.

We’ve already mentioned the array of environmentally friendly cleaning products on offer — but you can go the extra mile by avoiding them altogether!

Basic home supplies like soda, lemon juice, vinegar or soft soap are all brilliant alternatives to standard cleaning products.

Other tips = reusable cloths are always better than disposable wipes and old toothbrushes are great for scrubbing around taps or other hard-to-reach places.

4. Think before you flush.

So-called ‘flushable’ wipes may seem handy, until you realise that many of them are plastic based and don’t break down.

Other no-nos include: period products and cotton wool. But in short, if it’s not one of the three Ps (pee, poo or paper) — then it shouldn’t go down the toilet.

5. Empty your septic tank regularly.

On the subject of the three Ps, lots of people in rural areas like Bannau Brycheiniog use septic tanks for the safe disposal of wastewater — but it’s not without environmental (and financial!) risks. If a septic tank is not cleaned regularly enough, dangerous toxins can build up — eventually causing waste blocks and overflow, and the pollution that seeps into the soil can end up in local rivers.

Many standard household cleaners build up sludge and solid waste in septic tanks too — providing yet another reason to limit their use!

6. Be a considerate car-washer.

Many surface water drains flow straight into our streams and rivers — making a soapy Sunday morning car wash potentially more harmful than wholesome!

When washing your vehicle, it’s best to take it off the road or your concrete/asphalt driveway completely — and wash it on grass or gravel instead. This will filter out contaminants from the water and stop them from entering our rivers.

If that’s not possible, why not look at options for waterless washing or go to a responsible car wash instead?

7. Make regular use of the rivers.

Whether you visit them for walks, swimming, canoeing, or picnicking — the time you spend at the Rivers Wye and Usk feeds directly into their care.

For example, if you carry a litter-pick on your weekend walk; commit to always bagging and binning your dog’s poo; and always take litter home with you, you will quickly help us to make a huge difference to the quality of the rivers, on the ground.

But secondly, regular visits will arm you with the knowledge to spot when things aren’t right — for example if the water looks milky or oily, or if you spot a fly-tipping incident. These occurrences should be reported directly to Natural Resources Wales — please see more information on how to do this here.

Thanks for helping us to Love Our Rivers in Bannau Brycheiniog National Park.

Are you on board for our mission? Don’t forget to sign the ‘Love Our Rivers’ pledge, here.

Actions like this will help us to amplify our campaign and get everyone in Bannau Brycheiniog National Park on board to help save our rivers. We’re so grateful for your support.