A fantastic effort by 65 Citizen Scientists made the 2021 Land Yeo WaterBlitz a huge success!
Between Friday 7th and Monday 10th of May keen river guardians descended on the North Somerset Levels and Moors to measure water quality in the rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and ditch network. Volunteers of all ages were equipped with testing kits, enabling them to take 68 samples across the catchment and gain a snapshot of water quality to support BART and Avon Wildlife Trust’s Wilder Waterways project. We were joined by local volunteers on the Sunday at Moorend Spout Nature Reserve in Nailsea where we demonstrated how to take the samples and chatted about the work we are delivering across the catchment before participants headed off to take their samples.
During the WaterBlitz volunteers from local community groups, and those with their own individual interests in the health of the Land Yeo and its wider landscape, took water samples and used the testing kits to measure concentrations of nutrients, nitrates (NO3) and phosphates (PO4), in their chosen location.
In healthy rivers and streams these nutrients occur naturally in small amounts and are crucial for the growth of aquatic plants and animals. However, too many nutrients entering our watercourses can be a problem for aquatic ecosystems and for us too.
Nitrates and phosphates are nutrients that enter watercourses through fertilisers, manure, sewage, waste, urban surface run-off and the use of household products such as washing detergents. They can speed up plant growth and eutrophication and, in extreme cases, cause harmful algal blooms in water bodies.
Eutrophication can have severe impacts on watercourses. Thick mats of algae can form on the surface; scum and foam can appear; and ultimately death and disease of aquatic life such as fish and invertebrates can result from eutrophication. Algal blooms limit the light and oxygen levels in water bodies, reducing availability to aquatic organisms and limiting life within the ecosystem.
A fantastic effort by the Citizen Scientists meant that 68 samples were taken across the catchment during the event, despite some very wet weather! The average concentration of nitrates in samples was 3.17 mg/L, while a healthy level of nitrates is expected to be lower than 1.0 mg/L. Of these samples, 67% indicated a ‘high’ level of nitrates.
The average concentration of phosphates in samples was 0.09 where a healthy level is expected to be lower than 0.1 mg/L. Of these samples, 25% indicated a concentration deemed to be ‘high’.
As well as indicating nutrient levels, Citizen Scientists made key observations on other indicators of river health. They found that 26% of sample sites exhibited floating algae and 5 of the sites (7%) contained litter pollution in the immediate area.
The data collected during the Land Yeo WaterBlitz, along with data from WaterBlitz events since 2016, can be viewed and analysed through the exciting new WaterBlitz Explorer tool. The platform is new for 2021 and was developed in partnership with Riskaware; it is a fantastic resource for checking out the data for your local watercourse and hopefully inspiring you to take part in our next WaterBlitz event.
The data will also feed into the Earthwatch global database, helping to monitor the health of the lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands and reservoirs upon which we all depend.
The results from the Land Yeo WaterBlitz will be used as a baseline for water quality in the catchment and will enable BART and Avon Wildlife Trust to compare the data over time. We will be delivering the event annually until 2025, providing multiple years of data to compare and use to target further explorations into water quality and deliver practical conservation measures in the catchment.
For more information on the WaterBlitz event please get in touch with George Clark, BART Project Manager via firstname.lastname@example.org
The Land Yeo WaterBlitz was made possible by funding from the Wessex Water’s Partnership Grant Scheme and a contribution from Natural England.
Would you like to get involved in WaterBlitz and help make the rivers and streams of the Bristol Avon catchment better places for wildlife and for people? BART are pleased to announce that the 2021 Bristol Avon WaterBlitz will be taking place over the 9th – 12th July! BART will need Citizen Scientists to take samples from across the catchment to gain a snapshot of water quality and help us target future conservation activities. The registration page will go live in June so keep your eyes peeled for details coming soon.