A man testing water quality using sampling kit

The Rivers Trust are part of a winning share of £36m for cutting-edge water sector innovation

The Rivers Trust are part of a collaborative proposal, named CaSTCo., which has won £7.1m in Ofwat’s first Water Breakthrough Challenge to implement a national framework for a catchment monitoring cooperative, using citizen science and standardised approaches to data collection and management.

Rebecca Duncan


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, formed to revolutionise the way crucial water environment data in England and Wales is gathered and shared, with a particular focus on river catchment health.

Michelle Walker, Deputy Technical Director at The Rivers Trust, said: “This is a revolutionary 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 limited and inconsistent. Delivering a catchment monitoring cooperative will harness the power of citizen science combined with other monitoring approaches, to create a much-needed, robust evidence base for tackling environmental challenges, with 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
  • Teme
  • Broadland rivers and CamEO
  • Usk
  • Chess
  • Salmon & Dollis Brooks
  • Arun
  • Tamar

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. Each of the winners contribute to the resilience, sustainability and effectiveness of the water sector in the years to come for the benefit of customers across the country. Thank you to the independent judging panel for its challenge and insight in recommending these impressive winners.”

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
  • Coca-Cola Foundation
  • 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

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