Surrey Wildlife Trust and Thames Water visited Park Mead Primary School in Cranleigh last week as part of the Yellow Fish Project to spread the ‘only rain down the drain’ message. Many road drains locally lead to the Cranleigh Waters river and even small amounts of pollution can damage wildlife that thrives on healthy rivers.
The ‘Yellow Fish’ Scheme is an Environment Agency initiative where Yellow Fish ‘only rain down the drain’ stickers are put on kerbs next to surface water drains to indicate the drain feeds directly into the nearby Cranleigh Waters river.
Surrey Wildlife Trust brought in samples from Cranleigh Waters for the children to identify a range of riverfly, such as, mayfly which lives for up to two years in the river and only a day as a fly. The children learnt that if someone pours oil down a drain the riverfly will die and as a result the fish and other wildlife that feed on them such as otters and birds will be affected too.
Becky Johnston, who teaches year one, said the children learnt a lot about wetland wildlife and the effects of pollution:
‘So we know clean water is important for fish and for us. Now we know never to put any rubbish or baby wipes down the drain or in the loo because we have learnt that the plastic pollution and rubbish flows out into the sea from land, polluting our seas and marine life too.’
Thames Water explained what happens to human waste when it goes through the sewage treatment works and why only the three P’s should go down the loo - poo, pee and toilet paper. The children put toilet paper, baby wipes and tissue paper into bottles of water to discover only toilet paper disintegrated when they shook them.
Thames Water removes 30,000 tonnes of wet wipes, sanitary items and tissue paper from sewage every day. Other products such as dental floss and cotton buds can pass through the sewage treatment works and go into the river and end up in the sea too.
Another important message from Thames Water was about water efficiency, keeping showers short and not running the tap when you brush your teeth. The average water consumption per person is 163 litres per day.
Glen Skelton, Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Wetlands Officer, said:
‘It was inspiring to see such young children understand the problem so quickly and want to take action for wildlife immediately. It was a rainy day and at break time, with a break in the weather, they all rushed out to investigate the playground drains.’
The Trust is working with schools, businesses and community groups in the Cranleigh area to spread the word about the importance of good water quality for wildlife and people.
You can get involved in protecting and restoring wildlife in Surrey by registering as a volunteer with the Trust