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Norfolk Rivers Trust is running a CaSTCo (Catchment Systems Thinking Cooperative) project – supported by the Wensum Catchment Partnership (WCP) – to sample and analyse river water along the Wensum River catchment and its tributaries.

Following the success of a 6-month citizen science pilot programme, which was based in the Wensum headwaters between June and December 2022, CaSTCo will be replicating and expanding on this experience.

The challenge

With just 14% of England’s rivers deemed to be in ‘good ecological health’, monitoring is urgently required at a much higher density across a river catchment to fully understand the complex issues. A robust evidence base will also drive action and draw in external funding to tackle the river health challenges facing the Wensum.

The approach

Standardised monitoring tools and training are given to the citizen scientist volunteers to ensure that the collected water quality data is reliable and robust.

Where trends in data are spotted (i.e. high levels of nutrients), more-focused samples are taken in the form of a group ‘waterblitz’ day to explore why this might be.

Elle, CaSTCo Citizen Science Officer at Norfolk Rivers Trust, says:

“We’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the dedication of the citizen science volunteers. It demonstrates how deeply people care about the state of their local river and that they want to see change. Local people can bring valuable knowledge and connections. Importantly, this project moves away from speculating about what is going on to dealing with what is actually there – it is a crucial step towards healthy rivers.”

WCP partners and other stakeholders will be using the data obtained to develop, prioritise and implement water quality solutions.

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