At the launch of the Lake District Still Waters Partnership in 2001 it was recognised that no one organisation had responsibility for the Lake District's lakes and tarns, and based on existing knowledge, many of them were in poor quality and most were deteriorating.
Following a review of the quality of the 20 largest lakes in the Lake District in 2002 by the Lake District Still Waters Partnership it was revealed that Bassenthwaite Lake needed priority attention and this was the catalyst for the formation of the Bassenthwaite Lake Restoration Programme.
The Bassenthwaite Lake Restoration Programme (BLRP) is a partnership of eight organisations each with a statutory or non-statutory responsibility or interest in Bassenthwaite Lake and the surrounding area.
Through the first four years of development the partnership created a vision to steer future action, recognising that lake protection and improvement can only come from a whole catchment approach. This means the 'ownership' of the lake must ultimately come principally from the community (local and visiting), not its supportive agencies and organisations.
To promote a working landscape and diversified local economy that fully incorporates the heritage potential of Bassenthwaite Lake and its catchment, based on a restored and healthy ecosystem.
Sediment analysis in the lake has shown that the major changes in water quality within Bassenthwaite Lake have not been through land use changes through the ages, but have occurred only mid way through the last century. The BLRP believe that returning the lake condition to that which prevailed in the 1940s / 50s is a realistic goal.
Bassenthwaite Lake is recognised as being of national and international nature conservation importance. It is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Natural Nature Reserve (NNR) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and its protection from further deterioration and restoration to a higher quality is therefore paramount.
There are three "technical" actions required to restore Bassenthwaite Lake:
· Reduction of phosphorus in the lake from a level of about 25-30 μgms/ litre total phosphorus (winter average), to a level of about 20μgms / litre total phosphorus (winter average) by the year 2022. This level appears to be coinciding with the initial levels being proposed through the European Water Framework Directive, which is due to be implemented by 2010.
· Reduction of sediment entering the lake so that its accumulation in the lake is reduced by about half its present rate. A detailed definition is being developed as present 'in-fill' rates are quoted between 1 mm/ year to 1 cm/ year. Future scientific work and debate needs to propose a definition which is more easily measured.
· Addressing the issues of flora and fauna. The objectives are to primarily restore the health of the indigenous population of Vendace in Bassenthwaite Lake (and protect it in Derwent Water), but also to restore other populations of species acknowledged to be of national and international importance where they are closely associated with the quality of the lake. Again a more robust definition is being worked on, although the time frame for achievement remains at 20 years (2022).
Although the BLRP has been derived from an environmental perspective, it is recognised that this plays only a part of what is necessary to achieve sustainability. The community and economy are equally important and any programme of measures for environmental purposes needs to reflect this holistic approach. In particular, most environmentally sound business practices make sound economic sense too and long term community involvement and ownership is core to the long- term success of measures we put in place now. It is for this reason that the partnership approach aims to engage 'all communities' in contributing to the actions needed, rather than to identify a few major contributors and target them specifically.
The approach being taken by the partnership is entirely consistent with the emerging approach being adopted through the European Water Framework Directive and other economic and political instruments driving rural matters in the UK. There will be some big contributors but everyone has the opportunity of playing their part in contributing to the improvement programme.