The Severn RBD is the third largest river basin district in England and Wales with an area of 21,590 km2. As well as the River Severn and its main tributaries, the Worcestershire Avon and the Teme, the district includes the rivers of south east Wales and those of the counties of Avon and Somerset that drain into the Severn Estuary. These include the:
- Usk, and
- Bristol Avon.
The border between England and Wales cuts through the district. On the English side the district encompasses the counties of:
- West Midlands, and
The district also covers much of mid and south east Wales on the Welsh side, including the counties of:
- Blaenau Gwent
- Merthyr Tydfil
- Rhondda Cynon Taf, and
- Vale of Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.
The River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain. Its source rises on Plynlimon in the mountains of mid Wales and from here it flows into the Severn Estuary, which feeds into the Bristol Channel. The Severn estuary has a tidal range of 14.5m, the second highest in the world. Land use in the basin is predominantly agricultural, being home to extensive beef, sheep and dairy production.
High level of protection
Large conifer plantations are a feature of the uplands and the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire is home to a number of specialised horticultural units. The Severn Estuary and its surrounding area are afforded a very high level of protection under European wildlife law. Large areas of it are designated as a Special Protection Area under the Birds Directive and are also proposed as a Special Area of Conservation under the Habitats Directive for their intertidal and subtidal habitats and migratory fish species. The area surrounding the estuary is also:
- designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar convention, and
- a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The district’s rivers provide a diverse range of habitats for wildlife. For example, otters are numerous in the Upper Severn catchment and lamprey, salmon, Allis and Twaite Shad spawn in the mid Severn. Pearl Mussels are present in the River Clun. Floating Water Plantain and Grass-Wrack pond weed occur in the Montgomery canal which crosses the basin, and Ranunculus is a feature of the Wye and Usk catchments. The lower catchment is important for elvers. Several UK Biodiversity Action Plan species are present including:
- depressed river mussel
- river shingle beetles, and
Associated wetlands include the Mosses and Meres of the upper catchment and the floodplain grassland hams of the lower Severn and Avon.
Water resources in the Severn
The River Severn is a major source of water, supporting abstractions for public water supply and to a lesser extent for industry and agriculture. The Severn is also valued for its navigational and recreational uses. During periods of dry weather the river is regulated by reservoir releases, principally from Llyn Clywedog, to maintain flows at an acceptable level. In very dry years additional releases to the river can be made from the Shropshire Groundwater Scheme.
Water resources in the Severn RBD are primarily surface water based, with much of the district situated on secondary or non-aquifers. The exception is the Permo-Triassic sandstone that underlies north and east Shropshire, which is used for public supply and the Shropshire Groundwater Scheme. The Llyn Vyrnwy and Elan Valley reservoirs in the upper reaches of the Severn provide much of the public water supply to Liverpool and Birmingham, outside of the district.
Local population and businesses
The Severn RBD is home to over 5.3 million people, and has several major urban centres including:
- Bristol (380,615)
- Cardiff (305,353), and
- Coventry (300,848).
However, much of the RBD is rural in character, particularly within the Welsh Borders.
The key sectors in the Severn RBD are:
- business services
- wholesale and distribution
- public administration and health.
Important industrial sectors include transport equipment and metals manufacturing. The agriculture sector is small, but has continued to grow in recent years. Animal husbandry and the growing of vegetables are two key sectors.