A clean-up of the River Barrow and Duiske River took…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.