This September, we all came together for rivers to take part in our first Big River Watch Weekend, launched to help build a picture of river health across the country. It's good for you, and good for our rivers. Take a look at the results.
Whether you’re a swimmer or a paddler, an angler or a rambler, a wildlife spotter or a sit-and-watch-er, Big River Watch is a chance to be part of the movement improving our freshwater spaces. In just three easy steps, you can contribute to a national data set that will help us build a picture of river health across the country.
Twice a year, we hold Big River Watch Weekends. Over 5,000 of you took part in our first ever Big River Watch weekend on the 22-24th of September 2023, working together to submit over 3,600 surveys, and we've big plans for the Spring Big River Watch Weekend, on 3rd – 6th May 2024.
How does Big River Watch work?
- Step 1: Sign up
Sign up and download the survey app to your phone before visiting your chosen river.
- Step 2: Take part
Pick a riverside location and spend just 15 minutes observing and answering the questions on the survey. You can complete the survey at your favourite local spot, or choose to get to know somewhere new.
- Step 3: Upload
Upload your survey. It's that simple to get involved!
You'll tell us about the things that you see - from wildlife and plants, to the flow speed of the water and whether you can spot any pollution. If you don't know what you're looking at, use our handy in-app ID guides for pollution and wildlife.
Then, we'll gather up all of your results and our river specialists will get busy analyzing the information. We'll be making the data publicly available, so that it can be useful not just for us at The Rivers Trust; other environmental organizations, journalists or community groups can also use it to help in the fight for healthier, wilder rivers.
The app and survey are open year-round, so you can keep recording useful information about your local river at any time, if you wish.
Share your experience and your photos on social media using #BigRiverWatch.
Ready to get involved? Download the free Big River Watch app
Why is Big River Watch needed?
Rivers are suffering from sewage, plastic, chemical and nutrient pollution. To change this, we need to know where our rivers are having the problems and which problems are the most prevalent. The free and open Big River Watch survey is your chance to make a difference. Data gathered during Big River Watch can support policy change; helping turn the tide on plastics or stem the flow of untreated sewage. It also helps identify the best places for river clean-ups, or the creation of things like wetlands.
Here are some of the things that you saw whilst taking part in the Big River Watch in September 2023
No, you do not need to be an existing volunteer with a local Rivers Trust or NGO. This app and experience are open to everyone - you just have to be able to access a river in the UK or Ireland during one of our Big River Watch Weekends.
Yes, while we're interested in getting as many of you involved over our bi-annual Big River Watch Weekends to get a clear snapshot of river health at to points repeated in the year, the app and survey will also remain open to collect data year-round. So, if you run a volunteer group or you're interested in continuing to add information about your local river to the dataset, you can use the app at any time.
No. You do not need existing experience or knowledge on river health or river environments. In fact, we'd love for people who don’t know much about rivers yet to participate too.
Absolutely. You do not need to be a tech whizz, but you will need a smartphone that you can install apps on.
Yes. You will need to be able to visit a river in person during the weekend of the 22-25th September. It doesn't matter where you live, or whether your local river runs through a city, town or the countryside, as long as you complete the survey whilst looking at it.
A river is generally too wide for anyone to jump across (greater than 1.5m wide).
When rivers thrive, we thrive, but when rivers suffer, so do we. 0% of rivers in England and Northern Ireland are in ‘good’ overall condition. Rivers are suffering from sewage, plastic, chemical and nutrient pollution. To change this, more data is needed. We need to know where our rivers are having the problems, and which problems are the most prevalent. By sparing just 15 minutes, everyone can be part of the solution. Data gathered can support policy change; helping turn the tide on plastics or stem the flow of untreated sewage that reaches our waterways. It also helps identify the best places for river clean-ups, and spots to install things like leaky dams which slow the flow, boost biodiversity and reduce flood risk!
Big River Watch Weekend: A first look at the data
With over 3,600 surveys submitted for the first ever Big River Watch, our river experts have been busy exploring the data gathered by citizen scientists across the UK and Ireland.