Our national body The Rivers Trust has won a share of £36m for cutting-edge water sector innovation.

Part of a collaborative proposal called CaSTCo (Catchment Systems Thinking Cooperative) they won £7.1m from Ofwat’s first Water Breakthrough Challenge.

This aim is to create a national framework for a catchment monitoring cooperative, using citizen science and standardised approaches to data collection and management.

Our CEO Dr Laurence Couldrick said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to level the playing field across the England and Wales in how we collect and interpret river catchment health information.

“It’s good to know our citizen science knowledge from the Tamar area specifically will add detail to a wider geographical monitoring scheme.”

The proposal will be delivered through a partnership approach, led by the Rivers Trust and United Utilities, along with more than 20 other partner organisations from the water, eNGO, and academic sectors.

Michelle Walker, Deputy Technical Director at The Rivers Trust, said: “This is a new approach to the way we gather and use evidence to drive collective action and make decisions about the water environment.

“Thousands of trained and resourced citizen scientists and local communities will work with different partners to carry out monitoring and collection of high-density data, complemented by a network of sensors and hi-tech monitoring.

“This wealth of information will be gathered and shared into a central visualisation platform, helping us all to be part of decisions to invest in the right priorities, to give the biggest improvement to the state of our rivers”.

At present, just 14% of rivers in England and 46% in Wales are deemed to be in good ecological health and monitoring in rivers has been inconsistent across these countries.

By harnessing catchment monitoring, the cooperative will use citizen science combined with other monitoring approaches to create a much-needed, robust evidence base for tackling environmental challenges.

There will be direct support for local evidence gathering and community engagement, as well as a national framework of standardised tools and training.

Over a three-year period, the funding will be used to develop and implement the proposal in eight demonstrator river catchments across the country:

  • Upper Mersey
  • Tame
  • Broadlands
  • Usk
  • Chess
  • Salmon & Dollis Brooks
  • Arun
  • Tamar

Our senior monitoring officer Simon Browning said: “This is fantastic for our rivers and streams and particularly exciting for the Tamar catchment. 

“We are proud that our Westcountry Citizen Science Investigations volunteer project, started in 2016, has inspired and informed the growing interest in how people can help their local waterways.

“In this year alone, our volunteers have returned more than 1,800 surveys that provide valuable insight into water quality, wildlife and pollution along our Westcountry rivers.

We want to say a massive “thanks” to the hundreds of volunteers that have helped develop CSI and continue to grow the scheme.

“They prove people care deeply about their local rivers, streams and estuaries – and with the right tools and support they can ensure that there is nowhere for would be polluters to hide.”

To find out how to volunteer with us, visit wrt.org.uk/project/become-a-citizen-scientist/

Selwyn Rose, Innovation Strategy Manager at United Utilities, said: “We’re proud to have led the bid on behalf of our partners for this exciting and important initiative, and we can’t wait to get started”.

John Russell, Senior Director at Ofwat, said: “From Airbus and Microsoft to the Zoological Society of London and The Rivers Trust, the Water Breakthrough Challenge has led to the formation of exciting partnerships with water companies to improve services for customers and improve the environmental footprint of the sector.”

Alongside The Rivers Trust and United Utilities, the full list of named partners in the CaSTCo. proposal are:

  • Affinity Water
  • Anglian Water
  • Arun and Rother Rivers Trust
  • Cardiff University
  • Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water
  • EarthWatch
  • Freshwater Biological Association
  • Humming Bird Technologies
  • Life UP EU Natural Course
  • Northumbrian Water
  • Ribble Rivers Trust
  • River Restoration Centre
  • Severn Trent Water
  • South East Water
  • South West Water
  • Southern Water
  • Thames Water
  • UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
  • Wessex Water
  • Wye and Usk Foundation
  • Yorkshire Water
  • Zoological Society of London


Read more at waterinnovation.challenges.org/breakthrough/winners/