Hundreds of people have signed a petition against the emptying of a reservoir in the Rhondda. There was a public outcry recently when the Clydach Reservoir in Llanwonno Forest was drained “with no warning to the public” with people saying it now looks an “absolute mess”.

Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water said it intended to turn the reservoir back into a natural lake as it has not been used to supply drinking water since 2004. It added it had started to drain the reservoir as part of its planning for the work and said it was “sorry” for any “confusion locally”.

The petition, set up, by Jake Castle and signed by more than 400 people, said it is “an act of social and environmental vandalism” and that the loss of the reservoir would devastate local people. He has called on the CEO of Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water to immediately re-think its plans and find alternative options.

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The petition said: “Over many decades the Clydach reservoir has become an incredibly important place for the surrounding communities of Ynysybwl, Pontypridd, Cwmaman, Ferndale, Perthcelyn, and Mountain Ash. In an area short of high-quality and accessible destinations it forms the end point for family walks, hikes, rambles, cycle trips, and runs. Not only does it help improve the physical health of local people, in an area blighted by high rates of diabetes and obesity, but it has a hugely positive benefit on our mental health and wellbeing. This was clear during the Covid lockdowns when it became an essential oasis of calm, helping to ease our anxieties.

“Climate change predictions show that extreme rainfall will become more common in Wales in the coming years. Ynysybwl and Pontpridd have already suffered devastating floods in 2020. The reservoir could be used to manage flood risk by storing and slowly releasing flood water, lowering the peak flows of the Clydach and Taff rivers. Heatwaves, droughts, and forest fires will also become more common in summer.

“Already the reservoir is used by helicopters to fill up buckets when fighting fires locally. The loss of the reservoir would therefore increase the risk of forest fires spreading, destroying habitat and private properly and putting lives at threat. The removal of the reservoir would contradict the local priorities of Natural Resources Wales to slow water from the uplands and fight wild fires. The Clydach reservoir forms an important, locally-rare, and well-established habitat for many animals and birds.

“The reservoir supports insect life which sustains herons, ducks, kingfishers, swallows, swifts, cuckoos, night jars, and wagtails. Rare birds of prey, including goshawks, sparrow hawks and merlins, live nearby. If the reservoir hadn’t recently been drained (without any consultation) Canada geese would now have returned and be nesting there. Amazingly otters have also been recently spotted in the Clydach river below. Considering this the recent statement issued by Dŵr Cymru to the Ynysybwl Regeneration Partnership, which claimed the removal of the reservoir would ‘restore’ and ‘re-naturalise’ the water course, is misleading and disingenuous. There is already a thriving ecosystem there which would be destroyed by the removal of the reservoir.

“As members of the surrounding communities we demand Dŵr Cymru finds workable alternatives to these devastating plans. Indeed failure to do so would completely contradict your own stated ambitions to align with the seven well-being goals in the Future Generations Act. ” To get all the latest Rhondda news straight to your inbox sign up to our newsletter here.

Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water said: “We are aware of the petition and are still working on our plans, which will be shared with the community in coming weeks.

“Clydach Reservoir has not been used to supply drinking water since 2004 and will not be needed again. We therefore are looking at how we can safely turn the reservoir back into a natural state – just as it was before the dam was constructed. This will ensure the site will be safe and available for the local community to enjoy for years to come.

"While there has been no formal public access to the site, we are looking to make a formal right of way to give people better access to the site in future if possible. To help us with the planning for the work, we have started to drain the reservoir, which we appreciate may have caused some confusion locally, and for which we’re sorry.

"Protecting the wildlife onsite is a priority for us and we engaged with Natural Resources Wales before we commenced draining the reservoir. We will continue to engage with NRW and other wildlife bodies as we develop the plans for the work.”