Keeping our Rivers Clean

Our rivers in the UK are in a sad state. The historic method of combined sewage (rainwater and sewage) has created the unacceptable practice of flushing untreated sewage into our rivers. Some farms allow runoff of pesticides, silage and animal waste to leach into our rivers, and industry adds chemical by products. The organisation responsible for monitoring this, the Environment Agency, is underfunded, understaffed. Monitoring the thousands of miles in the UK was never one that could be accomplished by a small team of experts.

The Asker

Fortunately there is a solution, one that anyone who lives near a river can be part of. First our rivers need a their health monitored: consistently, over time: this data becomes the bedrock of understand their health. There are three methods of volunteer river monitoring, two which are established procedures: Riverfly, CSI and Water Guardians.

Riverfly actually asks its monitors to scuff the bottom of their river site, collect invertebrate flies and then count them. It is quite astonishing what lives beneath the surface and it gives a good indication of river health. If you are keen please have a read of the information on their website: https://www.riverflies.org/ . The Dorset contact is Angus Menzies  riverfly@dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk, who will sign you up for training. The kit for Riverfly is expensive, but if you are in or around Bridport, there is a kit sharing scheme overseen by Bridport Town Council.

The Citizen Science Investigation is very well described on the Westcountry Rivers Trust website. All potential monitors need to register through their volunteer manual (link).  It is very thorough with clear detail (written and video) and gives you the training you need to get started.  The process does not require wading but does require sampling and performing simple tests. WD FoE are helping to coordinate CSI over the Brit catchment and more details can be found here.

There is one other method of monitoring called Water Guardians.  This is a scheme run by Dorset Wildlife Trust in partnership with Wessex Water.  This method trains regular river walkers to watch for signs of pollution—an early warning system for us, the EA and Wessex Water.  This is not as complicated as the other techniques but relies on regular walkers.  Here is a link.

Ian Rees of Dorset National Landscape (aka AONB) is collecting current monitors, local scientists and river enthusiasts to create a coordinating group for these three monitoring groups and other agencies (Dorset Wildlife Trust, West Dorset Wilding). The aim is to provide additional chemical testing, look at river morphology and invasive plants and to provide the public with a current, local picture of the health of our rivers.

See our page on the Environmental Rights Act to view what local political action is happening regarding sewage in our rivers.