What's happening with our rivers?

11 September 2021

One of the things many of us have done over this last year is spend more time enjoying nature in our local areas. Some of us might be lucky enough to have a river nearby to walk along and enjoy. You might even have seen some wonderful wildlife; Kingfisher or perhaps an Otter if you have been very fortunate. But have you ever wondered about the health of our rivers? There has been quite a lot of publicity given to pollution issues recently from sewage and run-off etc and you might have been wondering what's happening in your local patch of river.

The Environment Agency monitors the health of our rivers, and they have been reporting on the Creedy Catchment since 2009 under the European Union Water Framework Directive (WFD). Each year, along with other rivers, it is classified according to a combination of elements including fish, aquatic invertebrates, water quality (phosphate, dissolved oxygen, ammonia) and river morphology (shape and structure of the river channel). Rivers can be classified as High, Good, Moderate, Poor or Bad status - the original aim of the WFD was that all rivers would reach 'Good' status by 2015, that's since been put back to 2027 and now even this deadline is uncertain. Many of the waterbodies in the Creedy catchment are classed as in a Poor status and the Lower Creedy is sadly in a Bad status for these measures. This catchment covers a huge area, with tributaries from Whiddon Down in the west to Shoebrooke in the East and from Way Village in the north to where it joins the River Exe near Cowley Bridge to the south.

The Westcountry Rivers Trust run a volunteer river monitoring scheme called Westcountry CSI (Citizen Science Investigations) and they are looking for more volunteers to survey the River Creedy and its tributaries. We have over 400 people signed up across the Westcountry - from West Cornwall to Somerset, and between them they have logged approaching 1000 surveys this year alone. But the Creedy catchment could really be helped by some more volunteers. I have taken on two spots near Newton St Cyres and am really enjoying learning more about the state of health of my local patch of the river system. Several others have recently joined in too but we could really do with more volunteers for the Rivers Yeo, Culvery, Troney and Colebrook.

Westcountry CSI includes a survey form prompting volunteers to record photographs and data on river flows, water level, wildlife spotted and pollution sources. They will suggest survey locations and provide water quality test kits for dissolved solids, suspended sediment and phosphate - some of the key indicators which are scoring so badly in parts of the catchment. This might sound complicated but it's very straightforward and there is lots of help available to get you started. All that information is uploaded to an interactive map where it can be viewed online. Ideally people will sign up to survey one or more locations at least once a month, each survey should only take around 10 to 15 minutes, so I find it's a easy job to do and you get to chat about your results to other walkers. I find people are really interested to know what you are up to!

This information we provide will help the Trust to highlight the good things about the River Creedy catchment and find out more about those issues that are causing it to fail. The Westcountry Rivers Trust will then be able to work with local residents and government bodies to come up with a plan to reverse the fortunes of this much loved river system. For more information check out their website or email: csi@wrt.org.uk to discuss any spots where you would like to do some sampling or email me. And by the way, it's a great way for kids to get involved and learn about their environment too!

Sue Rowell