Bristol Avon RiverBlitz

The Project

The Bristol Avon RiverBlitz is an annual citizen science event that gives a snapshot of water quality and ecological health in the rivers and streams across the catchment.

BART continues to work with partners to improve our rivers for the benefit of people and wildlife, and one of the most significant obstacles to healthy rivers is water quality; in particular the high levels of contaminants impacting our freshwater ecosystems. The Bristol Avon RiverBlitz enables anyone with a passion for their local green and blue environment to contribute to its conservation.

The results from the RiverBlitz project help us target areas and influence future conservation projects. Using this interactive site, you can view all the RiverBlitz results collected by our volunteers. BART have been running this citizen science project each year since 2016 and have seen it grow with each event to become a catchment-wide, community-led project. To get involved in our next event, keep an eye on BARTs social media and website.

Why is monitoring contaminants in our rivers important?

During the project, Citizen Scientists take water samples, measuring the levels of nutrients in their chosen watercourse. The data collected demonstrates where levels of nutrients are low, medium or high, giving an indication of water quality in the immediate vicinity at that time.

In healthy rivers and streams 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.

Other vital observations are carried out which help us to identify where other ecological issues are in the catchment. These observations that are made include identifying the types of vegetation, the flow conditions, river bed composition and presence of invasive species. We strive to restore our freshwater habitats to natural, diverse and clean environments for the benefit of people and wildlife.

How can I help with the problem?

Figures released by the Environment Agency in September 2020 showed that under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), no English river has achieved good chemical status, suggesting pollution from sewage discharge, chemicals and agriculture are having a huge impact on river quality.

In the United Kingdom around 90% of lowland surface freshwaters like rivers, streams and ponds have ecologically damaging levels of either nitrogen, phosphorus or both.

Stopping this pollution is not easy, because nutrients enter rivers from a number of different sources, including naturally occurring sources, from agricultural land and via wastewater treatment works.

Households can reduce the amount of nutrients that they contribute to their wastewater and help improve conditions for our river wildlife. Good water quality, healthy populations of aquatic insects, and thriving fish communities are what we would like to see for the streams and rivers of the Bristol Avon catchment.

Take a look at the BART website outlining everyday actions you can take to benefit our local rivers and the wildlife that depends on them.

How can I support the project?

The Bristol Avon RiverBlitz is a fantastic Citizen Science project that connects people and communities to their local watercourses and enables all people, regardless of age or background, to take an active role in exploring and protecting the local natural environment.

By running RiverBlitzes across the catchment BART have been able to identify areas of both good and poor water quality and investigate in greater deal the sources of pollutants impacting watercourses. We can compare data between years and locations and build a picture of water quality over space and time.

To continue to grow this valuable project, BART require partners who are keen to pro-actively support engagement in conservation and citizen science projects. If your organisation would like to sponsor a RiverBlitz in the future and actively help to protect and enhance the local natural environment please get in touch: