River Don Revival

Emily Cooper


Few projects better demonstrate the power of an integrated, collaborative approach than the River Don Revival project. The River Don is a tributary of the River Tyne. It provides a huge number of ecosystem services—ranging from biodiversity and recreational opportunities to surface water drainage. The catchment also provides a home to water voles across multiple sites - an endangered and ecologically valuable species. Despite this, the Don isn’t without its problems. It currently fails to meet ‘Good’ status under the Water Framework Directive. The Don is also a heavily modified river, having been straightened and deepened over the years. In addition, there are several suspected pollution sources within the Don; sewer misconnection, agricultural and contaminated land could all be leading to reduced water quality. To add to the problem, a number of areas within the Don are often affected by floods, whether that’s surface, river or sewer flooding. The River Don needed help—and fast. In order to tackle the complex issues facing the Don, the Catchment Based Approach was utilised. The Don Integrated Catchment Project, including Tyne Rivers Trust, examined flood risk; the River Restoration Project examined the river’s morphology; and the Wild Trout Trust report identified barriers to fish movement. Together, these resources helped partners to develop the most effective catchment approach possible.


Numerous reports have demonstrated opportunities to restore the natural river channel, create new habitats, reduce flood risk and realise an array of benefits for the River Don. At the same time, water quality in the river is continuously being monitored—gathering data to focus improvements in the most at-risk areas. In addition, consultations have been held with both partners and the public, and the information gathered will be used to shape the future of the Don catchment.

Next steps

The River Don Revival project will continue to fight for the river’s future. Firstly, an action plan will lay out the manual work necessary to improve the river and the catchment as a whole. In addition, the partnership intends to work with a scheme called the NW Water Rangers to encourage the public to engage in citizen science, collecting evidence of poor water quality. The partnership will also work closely with the South Follingsby Park development to implements Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, to create new habitats and to improve the river itself. Finally, the partnership hopes to appoint a dedicated member of staff to oversee all of the work taking place on the Don.
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