CSI is a data collection process; both of samples (phosphates, temp. TDS, turbidity) and observations: wildlife, invasive species, possible pollution, livestock access etc. Its value increases over time and consistency. It is not a one off evaluation.
The EA has scientists that can evaluate with much greater accuracy the composition of the river. What CSI (and Riverfly) can do is fill in the map. These techniques give good shorthand results and point towards health or lack of it. The information is good enough for the EA to interpret and then act or continue to monitor. This is crucial to their data collection, as they don’t have the funding or staff to do this kind of collection; there are 36,000 miles of rivers in the UK.
The full details for becoming a CSI monitor the can be found on the Westcountry Rivers Trust here. This manual of text and video is very complete and gives you all the detail you need to become a monitor. If you are uncertain, grab a coffee and a snack, and sit down to what will take around 40 minutes. If it bores you or you haven’t the time, this may not be the project for you. I found it fascinating and was thoroughly sold on the idea by the time I had finished.
It is important to monitor 10 times a year (12 if you are really paying attention), hopefully continuing for several years. This builds up data over time which is more important than an instant snapshot. WRT will help you with site choice, but they are willing to have you suggest alternatives. Ideally the site you choose should be near to your home: a place you walk or visit often and the sampling can be a way to quietly sit and take in the sounds and pay attention. Some volunteers have multiple sites, others just one. WD FoE would also like to know who has joined up as we are coordinating and keeping track of who is taking part. Please email us when you have signed up with WRT.
The four tests are simple; only phosphate requires replacement test strips: they come in tubes of 25. WRT supply them and ask for a £8 donation. In the future, this is likely to become something that Bridport Town Council will stock for us. Initially you will be asked to do a dry run and report the findings to “cartographer”. After this WRT will send you the kit. They will ask for £30 as a reimbursement; it is possible that some of these costs will be covered or discounted. Check with WD FoE. WRT are expanding the number of tests performed, but this will only be for those volunteers who choose to do so. It is likely to extend the testing to ph, nitrate and ammonia sampling.