Defra-funded water project goes live

Ten river monitoring stations on the River Eden and its tributaries went live on Monday as part of the Defra-funded Eden Demonstration Test Catchment (EdenDTC).

One of three national projects to determine how land management affects the water environment, the stations will collect water quality data and test measures for reducing agricultural pollution.

The stations have been installed by researchers from Lancaster University, Newcastle University, Durham University, the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology, Askham Bryan College (Newton Rigg) and the Eden Rivers Trust. What differentiates this project is that the live, real-time data will be published online and can be accessed by any interested party.

The stations will analyse nutrients in the river catchment every 15 minutes, giving constant, live data about levels of contaminants and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous from agricultural runoff. It is hoped that the research, and the transparent nature of its findings, will allow communities and stakeholders to be better informed and, therefore, more active in decision-making about local water quality.

It will also allow farmers to see the effect fertiliser use has on river water quality and, it is hoped, help them to develop a strategy to minimise impact.

Co-ordinator of the three national DTC projects, Professor Bob Harris said: “We will be able to use the scientific evidence gathered in the Eden catchment and elsewhere to show how small changes in farming activities adopted throughout the country can lead to quite an improvement in our water quality without negatively affecting food quality.

“We want to develop win/win situations whereby farmers manage their land to produce food profitably, but become better at preserving topsoil and reducing their nutrient losses. This will benefit the water environment because not as much pollution is entering rivers and groundwater, but also saves the farmer money.”

As well as the Eden in Cumbria, DTC projects are being carried out on the Wensum in Norfolk and the Avon in Hampshire.

Will Parsons

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