Catchment News

Love Your River Telford: partnerships and progress in an urban area

Guy Pluckwell is a Senior Environment Officer for the Environment Agency and works on the ‘Love Your River Telford’ project in the West Midlands, UK.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2017 Catchments Newsletter. 

When we first surveyed the watercourses in Telford back in February 2013 we found they were being impacted by urban pollution, such as sewer misconnections and trading estate and highways runoff. As well as these water quality problems the town also suffers from flooding and a deteriorating habitat for biodiversity.

In an attempt to tackle these issues we approached various partners and local groups and began to combine our efforts by working together. There was a lot of enthusiasm for a project to improve Telford’s watercourses which was great to see!

Some of the issues in Telford’s watercourses

It became clear that Telford had a quite large and very active network of volunteer groups that focused on environmental issues. After many discussions, some very innovative ideas and lots of unique suggestions about how to approach the challenges we faced, ‘Love Your River Telford’ was born.

Since the birth of the project two and a half years ago we have completed some great work to help improve the environment. The urban catchment management model that we’ve created together has resulted in three national awards in that short time.

What do we do?

We have completed a number of training sessions with the volunteer groups led by either project partners with appropriate expertise or brought in expertise, including:

  • Signs of pollution in watercourses
  • Walkover surveys and recording
  • Chemical testing of watercourses
  • Invertebrate monitoring of watercourses
  • Aquatic plant identification in watercourses

We also asked the volunteers if there was anything they would like to learn more about and subsequently also ran two further courses on:

  • Mammal identification
  •  Bat monitoring

We have also provided chemical and invertebrate monitoring equipment and the groups are now capable of monitoring their own stretches of watercourse, identifying water quality issues, and knowing what action to take where they do identify issues.

Local volunteers getting trained

Clean Stream Team

We’ve also developed a new approach for dealing with urban pollution – we’ve formed the ‘Clean Stream Team’. This is made up of representatives from the Environment Agency, Severn Trent Water with support from Telford & Wrekin Council and Shropshire Wildlife Trust. By using shared knowledge, experience and equipment the ‘Clean Stream Team’ work together in the town to resolve pollution issues identified by the community as well as proactively seeking out and resolving problems themselves.

Depaving to allow water to drain away more naturally

Blue Business Awards and community advice

We have worked closely with Telford’s business community and have created the Blue Business Awards, recognising and celebrating those businesses that excel in pollution prevention management and water efficiency. We work with the local community in Telford providing them with advice and guidance on how they can help improve their watercourses in the town.

Wet woodlands created as part of deculverting a local stream

River Rangers programme in local schools

Last but not least, we have identified schools for our River Rangers programme. The aim of which is to raise awareness about the environment and water quality amongst schoolchildren. We go into the schools for one session a week over six weeks and the children complete a water audit of their school, dip their local watercourses to see what lives in it, learn about pollution and how it can affect what lives in the watercourse and finally the kids build a mini Sustainable Drainage System (SUDS) in their school at the end of the programme. The River Ranger School Education Programme is available for anyone to use via Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s website who have developed it. As a partnership, we have also made a number of physical improvements to watercourses and their catchments in the town to complement our extensive community engagement programme.

Together we have; installed Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), brought watercourses back to the surface through de-culverting, enhanced and created wetland habitats by installing woody debris and removed impermeable surfaces replacing them with rain gardens. Twelve different organisations have helped steer the project and collaboratively we have not only improved the water quality in the town’s watercourses but also realised a whole range of multiple benefits for the town’s people and environment, including significant cost savings as a result of everyone working efficiently together.

Guy Pluckwell, UK Environment Agency

Highway SUDS Scheme

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.

LAWCO

Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.

EPA

Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,829 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures for each.

DECLG

Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures that will be implemented after public consultation and sign off by the Minister.