The Dee River Basin District (RBD) covers an area of 2,251 km2 of:
- north-east Wales
- Shropshire, and
- the Wirral.
The district consists of a single river basin; that of the River Dee, its tributaries and estuary. It is mainly rural in character, with the main urban centres situated in the lower part of the catchment. The district is characterised by a varied landscape. It ranges from the mountains and lakes of the Snowdonia National Park in the upper part of the basin, through the Vale of Llangollen in the middle reaches, to the open plains of Cheshire and the mudflats of the Dee Estuary in the lower basin.
Agriculture and forestry
Agriculture and forestry are the dominant land uses, particularly in the upper part of the basin. Here the uplands support mixed sheep and beef-cattle farming, as well as forestry. In the lower lying and flatter land of the Cheshire Plain, intensive dairy farming is dominant, with the land around the Dee estuary supporting mixed and arable production.
The district is home to several sites designated under European and national legislation for their nature conservation value. These include:
- the River Dee and Bala Lake candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC), designated for its Atlantic salmon and water plantain populations
- Berwyn and South Clwyd Mountains cSAC and Special Protection Area (SPA), designated for its upland breeding birds and blanket bogs
- Dee Estuary, a SPA, and
- Ramsar site designated for its important breeding and migratory bird populations.
Lakes and storage reservoirs
Several major lakes and storage reservoirs are situated in the upper part of the basin, including Llyn Tegid; the largest natural lake in Wales. The storage reservoirs are used to control flood risk in the lowlying parts of the catchment adjacent to the Dee. They are also used to regulate river flows in drier periods to sustain abstractions for public supply and industry, the navigational water requirements of the Shropshire Union Canal and fisheries interests in the lower Dee.
Strategic importance of the Dee
The strategic importance of the Dee and the risk posed to it from pollution associated with the adjacent chemical and petrochemical industries in the lower Dee and estuary have led to the Dee becoming one of the most regulated rivers in Europe. In 1999, the lower part of the Dee was designated as the UK's first, and to date only, Water Protection Zone. This allows for greater controls on polluting activities, placing greater emphasis on industry and others to put in place pollution-control measures.
The Dee and its tributaries are renowned for their excellent fishing. Game fish, including salmon and sea trout, are found throughout the catchment, including the lakes and reservoirs in the upper reaches. Coarse fish, including grayling, for which the River Dee is well-known, are present in the middle and lower reaches, and in the Shropshire Union Canal, which is located in part in the south-east of the basin. Some salmon net-fishing takes place in the estuary under licence. The estuary is also home to important cockle beds, which provide a local industry.
The stretch of the Dee immediately upstream of the estuary between Chester and Shotton was canalised in the eighteenth century, but presently the upper limit of navigation for large vessels is considered to be Connah's Quay at the upstream limit of the estuary proper.
The Dee RBD is home to over 500,000 people. Chester and Wrexham are the two major urban centres. The Dee RBD also includes rural areas and some deprived areas. Population in the Dee has been increasing moderately, and continued steady growth is expected in the future. A stronger rise in the number of households is expected (with the average household size predicted to fall).
Key sectors in the region include business services, retailing, health, banking and insurance. Commercial and industrial development is mainly centred in the urban areas adjacent to the estuary, and around Wrexham. Major industries include chemical and pharmaceutical plants, food manufacture, paper production and a major aircraft-construction site at Broughton. Manufacturing is an important contributor to the economy of the Dee.
Agriculture makes up only a very small part of the economy, with cereal crops and livestock the largest agricultural activities. Between 1995 and 2002, output in the service sectors recorded the largest increases. The performance of manufacturing varied across the sectors - the manufacturing of transport equipment increased strongly, while the manufacture of rubber and plastics declined. Output increased at a rate of 2.8% per annum overall. Growth in employment between1995 to 2002 was driven by growth in the services sectors, particularly retailing and hotels and catering.
Employment in the manufacture of rubber and plastics recorded notable falls over the period. Over the period to 2015, output is predicted to grow by around 2.3 per cent per annum. Driving this growth is the services sector, although the manufacturing industry is also expected to contribute to growth (mainly transport and electrical and optical equipment). Employment, on the other hand, is expected to grow only slightly, with falls predicted for a number of sectors, including public administration, wholesale and distribution, and agriculture.