"A Clear Future for our River"
Welcome to BART's Winter 2021 Newsletter
Catch up with what's been happening with Team BART! As autumn ends and winter begins to tightens its grip, we are working hard and planning lots more exciting work to see us through winter and into 2022...
We hope that you enjoy reading about BART's recent work to protect and enhance our local rivers.
We would like to extend a very warm welcome to the newest members of the BART team, Melissa Hoskings and Amy Wade.
Melissa Hoskings joins the team as Head of Operations after spending the past 10 years at the Severn Rivers Trust, 5 of which has been spent as the Head of Land Management supporting a team of 12 skilled farm advisors across the Severn region delivering sustainable land management projects with over 1500 farmers and landowners. Melissa is incredibly passionate about restoring healthy river systems and believes with the correct knowledge and engagement we can all play a part in enhancing our local environment. You can find out more about Melissa here.
Amy Wade joined BART in October as River Chew Community Engagement Officer. During her PhD Amy investigated trade-offs between agricultural production and ecosystem functioning. She continued to research similar themes as a postdoctoral researcher, staying on at the University of Reading where she earned her PhD. A desire to inspire others led Amy away from research and into teaching. For three years she taught biology, chemistry, and physics to young people up to the age of 18. Whilst a teacher, Amy applied communication techniques to engage and excite her students. Amy believes that providing communities with knowledge is a powerful tool in protecting our precious environment and applies this theory in her role as River Chew Community Engagement Officer. You can find out more about Amy here.
A note from BART's CEO, Simon Hunter
“Who hears the rippling of rivers will not utterly despair of anything.” Henry David Thoreau
We’re all experiencing a kind of collective trauma. The pandemic, climate change and the declared ecological emergencies – it can all get quite overwhelming. How do we find our way through that? Well, one of my favourite nature writers, Robin Wall Kimmerer has written that if we “restore the land, we restore ourselves” and I believe the same can be said for water – with healthy lifeblood, our rivers, streams, and seas will flourish as will the life that depend on them. If we restore our rivers and oceans, we will therefore begin to restore ourselves.
This of course is no quick fix, but I truly believe that there is healing to be had in our connection with healthy rivers and blue spaces. Even if we cannot go outside or be by the river, then even visualising the swaying effect of water crowfoot in the river’s flow or the sound of water bubbling over riverbed gravels can help ease tension and help one relax.
Sometimes being able to leave our busy lives behind for a moment and enter your own world, by the side of your local river or stream, it’s a place where we can feel embraced by nature. Go try it, enjoy the rustle of the last Autumn leaves and the bending of wood as wind moves through the river corridor. Peer into the deep pools and become captivated by the bubbling riffles. Trust me it’s rather therapeutic!
I hope you all enjoy our Winter 2021 newsletter – you’ll see that once again we’ve been busy in our quest to improve our rivers and streams for people and wildlife to thrive!
Green Recovery Challenge Fund success
BART are delighted to have received funding from the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. With support from two local landowners, we shall create 0.4 Hectares of wetland habitat and 0.1 hectares of tree planting in Pensford and 0.2 hectares of wetland habitat in Woollard. The project will also engage local schools and communities with a sustainable water use programme, engage volunteers in tree planting, take schools out on a river dipping event and upskill local communities on aquatic invertebrates and more.
In July, an outstanding effort by 193 Citizen Scientists led to the 2021 Bristol Avon WaterBlitz being an exceptional success!
From 9th to 16th of July, volunteers participated in important water quality testing in their local streams and rivers across the Bristol Avon Catchment. Volunteers of all ages were provided with easy-to-use testing kits to measure concentrations of nutrients; nitrates and phosphates, resulting in a total of 239 samples collected and recorded across the catchment. The data will provide us with a snapshot in time of nutrient levels.
Some of this year’s participants attended local events on the River Biss and Bristol Frome. Volunteers were welcomed by the BART team who gave WaterBlitz sampling demonstrations, before participants headed off to take their own samples. It was an absolute pleasure to meet so many enthusiastic and committed Citizen Scientists in the local catchments.
The two events were supported by our partners Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and by players of the Peoples Postcode Lottery. The data collected by Citizen Scientists will help BART identify clean waters, to pinpoint pollution hotspots, and to help inform where, when and how actions could be taken, including raising awareness amongst stakeholders within the Bristol Avon catchment. Data from the River Biss catchment help assist Wiltshire Wildlife Trust with their A Better Biss Approach project, which aims to better the health of the River Biss and its tributaries.
The data collected from the summer events were pooled with data collected from the Land Yeo WaterBlitz in the spring, a project funded by Avon Wildlife Trust via the Wilder Waterways partnership project, in turn funded by Wessex Water Partnership Programme. Analysis of all Waterblitz data collected in 2021 shows that 84% of samples recorded a medium or high level of nitrate. At these levels (greater than 0.5 mg/L), water quality is impacted and the aquatic wildlife dependent on healthy freshwater environments are at risk. 55% of 2021 samples were either medium or high in phosphate levels.
With funding from the Halpin Trust and support from local landowners (Bowood Estate and Calne Town Council), BART have successfully removed a weir in Castlefields Park, Calne. The weir acted as a barrier to the movement of coarse fish species within the river, such as Chub, roach, dace and pike; whilst also restricting the movement of beneficial gravels for fish spawning and aquatic invertebrate habitat. The weir was removed in early November which will restore this stretch of river, improving the in-stream habitat for aquatic invertebrates, fish, and aquatic plants and therefore help to bring more wildlife to the site.
BART will return in the spring to deliver follow up restoration, including installation of flow deflectors and woody berms. If you’re interested in supporting the delivery of in stream restoration, keep an eye out on our social media pages as we approach spring.
Volunteers work hard to clean up our rivers
BART has been very active through this year hosting many events where volunteers and local residents have joined the efforts to clean rivers and raise awareness of river health. We have worked at a range of sites and with multiple organisations, always ensuring Covid-19 safety measures were top priority.
The aim of these river clean events is to remove litter, rubbish and discarded items from rivers, whilst also cleaning up river habitats. In addition to cleaning, events provide an opportunity to extend BART's engagement with local residents, grow working relationships with other organisations and expand BART's volunteer base.
Thanks to everyone's hard work, we achieved substantial river cleans along the following rivers across the Bristol Avon Catchment: Brislington Brook, Malago Stream, Pigeonhouse Stream, River Biss, Hazel Brook, Bristol Frome Yate and Bristol Frome Eastville. Those participating were a mix of local residents, corporate employees and even BART Beacons joining in. Helping on weekends and weekdays in all sorts of weather, teams worked in good spirits and with determination. A vast amount of litter, rubbish and unwanted items were removed from rivers, including a lot of supermarket trolleys. These events were carried out with the help of Homelink, Wessex Water, Sustainable Hive, The Environmental Agency and South Gloucestershire Council. If it were not for the work from the forenamed, the tremendous river cleans would not have come to pass nor been the success that they were.
New Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Plan
The Bristol Avon Fish Task Group has been formed, because of widespread interest from partners in understanding and creating a common approach to fisheries in the catchment.
BART has received Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership (BACP) grant funding to initiate the development of a Bristol Avon Fish Recovery Plan. Support from the BACP will provide a platform to get the project off the ground, attract interest and stimulate additional support from partners to integrate the fish strategy into local and regional plans.
The project could provide a blueprint for wider fish recovery plans around the country. BART will continue to promote the importance of aquatic life below the water line.
River Chew Catchment Project: Nature based solutions in Winford Brook BART continues to build strong working relationships with landowners to implement measures that will improve floodplain connection, slow the flow of water during heavy rainfall events, reduce sediment and nutrient inputs into the watercourses, sequester carbon, and create new habitats. BART’s delivery of nature based solutions in the Winford Brook catchment continued over the summer with a programme of works at two farms near Regil and Winford, North Somerset, in the headwaters of the Winford Brook catchment.
To date, BART have worked with four landowners in this catchment to provide nature based solutions, together they improve river health, support wildlife and contribute to flood management. Last year BART delivered multiple interventions, such as constructing attenuation ponds and bunded scrapes. This year a series of bunded scrapes to capture surface water run-off and attenuate high flows in the watercourse, plus the setting out of a small spring fed wetland, will enhance the ecology in this part of the catchment. The nature-based solutions will also help to reduce the input of sediment into the downstream watercourses and help to alleviate localised flooding on Hen Lane.
In August, BART’s project delivery team installed large woody debris along the same tributary of the Winford Brook contributing towards slowing the flow of water through the landscape. By working with natural processes, mimicking natural rainfall, the leaky barriers will encourage the stream to fill to its channel capacity during higher flows and reconnect with its natural floodplain. The surrounding wet woodland will function more effectively as a storage area during medium to high flows and provide valuable habitat for riverine and terrestrial wildlife.
Over the winter we will be returning to these project sites to plant trees, strategically manage vegetation (opening up the canopy to allow light in) and install livestock fencing to improve water quality in the catchment. The schemes are being delivered by BART, working in partnership with contractors, landowners, local authorities and the Environment Agency who have funded this element of the project.
River Chew Catchment Project:
Candlestick Stream restoration Work is progressing well on our Candlestick Stream restoration projects in the Chew catchment. The stream has a high potential to support populations of salmonids, with diverse spawning habitat found downstream. By tackling water quality issues in the headwaters the project aims to enhance the watercourse and encourage aquatic species to flourish.
Working with willing landowners and local contractors, BART have created a series of seasonal scrapes and earth bunds at the bottom of a steep arable field. Where sediment and nutrient were being lost to the stream they will now be captured in the wetland features, slowing the flow of surface water and reducing pollutants in the stream. Where the excess sediment has blocked surface drainage, the features will help to reduce this impact and limit localised road flooding.
Downstream, BART have delivered the first phase of works in Lord’s Wood where the Candlestick stream flows through the site of an active forestry operation. Here, we worked with a local contractor, Green Mantle Ecosophy, to introduce a number of large trees into the watercourse in strategic, lower-lying locations along the stream. By introducing large woody material to the channel and on the stream’s floodplain, we aimed to increase flow diversity and promote natural geomorphological processes such as stream bed scour and gravel deposition. During medium and high rainfall events, the woody material will encourage the stream to spill out into its natural floodplain, increase water storage capacity and encourage sediment deposition, thus reducing the sediment load downstream. This is key to the enhancement of the downstream habitat, particularly for aquatic invertebrates and fish species who depend on clean stream bed gravels.
Local volunteers joined BART to help deliver this work and created brushwood bundles to capture sediment in forestry track runoff. As the tracks get muddy over the winter surface water takes the track sediment into the stream. The volunteers used branches harvested from the woodland to form a filtering barrier between the tracks and the stream, reducing the quantity of unnatural sediments entering the watercourse.
Bristol Water partnership: Winford Brook and Upper River Chew
BART continue to work in partnership with Bristol Water to develop opportunities with landowners to submit to Bristol Waters capital grant scheme. The aim is to identify opportunities for water quality improvements and habitat enhancements in the Upper Chew and Winford Brook catchments. Since the Spring, BART have developed plans with a further three landowners and tenant farms to deliver capital infrastructure improvements and nature-based solutions that will contribute towards reducing the impact of agricultural practice, enhance freshwater habitats as well as deliver for natural flood management.
Over the Summer and Autumn, BART Project Manager, George Clark, has overseen delivery of riparian fencing to exclude livestock and prevent the trampling of river banks, the creation of seasonal scrapes and sediment traps and tree management to promote in-stream habitat. The partnership has also provided BART with opportunity to engage with a large number of farmers and provide support and advice around improvements to land management, and help them to make changes that will benefit local wildlife and the local natural landscape.
BART is delivering a range of projects that will help to re-connect communities with the Bristol Frome as well as deliver habitat improvements on the ground within parts of the upper catchment.
Sustainable Homeowner Water Management campaign
BART has carried out a Sustainable Homeowner Water Management campaign in the Yate and Chipping Sodbury areas in South Gloucestershire. BART identified these communities as target areas for the project as parts are vulnerable to flooding, with 100 homes and 40 businesses at risk of flooding. BART was granted funding from the Postcode Local Trust, and additional support from Bristol Water and the Environment Agency, to raise awareness and provide the tools for local homeowners to help.
During May, BART was joined by volunteers from Bristol Water to post leaflets to residents and introduce the local community to BART’s work in the Bristol Frome catchment. The leaflets provided information about the measures that homeowners could implement to reduce surface water runoff from their properties, through the introduction of Sustainable Urban Drainage solutions (SuDS) such as water butts, rain gardens, ponds, green roofs and permeable paving.
Alongside the campaign, BART offered free water butts to local residents. Water butts assist with capturing run-off from our roofs, preventing water from draining straight into the drainage network and overwhelming it, which can lead to localised flooding or Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) spills.
During July, BART was joined by a helpful volunteer from Bristol Water to deliver 16 water butts to residents that had requested them. BART provided advise on where and how to install them to effectively capture and store rainwater from household roofs. BART would like to thank the recipients and wider community for doing their bit to use water wisely.
Alongside work on the ground, BART have produced and distributed digital educational resources for schools within the Bristol Frome catchment. The lessons educate pupils about their local rivers and streams, the issues facing them and how they can help through sustainable water use at school and home. We hope the lessons will inspire our next generation of river guardians and empower individuals and communities to make a difference.
Only Rain Down the Drain Over the last month, BART have been engaging with local businesses to investigate mis-connections within business properties located close to the Bristol Frome. Surface water sewers collect rainwater and drain into streams and rivers. The foul sewer collects waste water which is taken to the local sewage treatment works. One of the major problems we face is that appliances are sometimes incorrectly connected to the rainwater drains – all commercial waste water should go into the foul sewer.
Misconnections often occur during renovation work or when extensions are built, but in some instances faulty plumbing has been found in properties. Waste water from dishwashers, sinks and toilets are discharged directly into rivers and streams. As well as damaging wildlife this is a potential public health risk. Through our observations we were able to offer advice on how businesses can put things right to reduce the risk of pollution to our local rivers.
Stoke Brook restoration
BART have also delivered a river restoration project on Stoke Brook, Bradley Stoke. Whilst undertaking our winter surveys, Stoke Brook was identified to be modified and straightened, which allowed for little in the way of flow diversity. The channel was over-wide, shallow and devoid of its natural features, providing little cover or refuge for fish or aquatic organisms. The artificially straight and uniform channel was characteristic of slow depositing flows; the bed was silty which smothered river bed gravels. In places, the brook was also over-shaded, preventing light from reaching the watercourse impacting in-stream vegetation.
BART used coppiced material to build brushwood berms in the river. These structures add diversity to flowby acting as natural river meanders that would have once existed. The berms provide valuable in-river habitat, to provide refuge for fish and invertebrates living in the river and also captures silt and sediment in the river, that would otherwise flow downstream and also smother gravels and vegetation.
As the ten brushwood berms capture silt and become self-sustaining they will help create a more diverse river cross-section, creating deeper pools which will provide valuable habitat for fish. The material that is scoured will then naturally deposit downstream in slower flowing water, with this material forming suitable fish spawning habitat. The faster flowing sections will encourage water crowfoot to establish which provides further habitat for aquatic life and lifts river levels during periods of low-flows. Read more about the project here.
To follow our Bristol Frome project progress please keep an eye on our website for further updates, or contact email@example.com for further information.
Cotswold Natural Landscape: Little Avon Following our walkover surveys at the start of the year, BART have been engaging with landowners across the headwaters of the Little Avon to discuss opportunities for river improvements at Dyers, Dovert, Ozelworth and Kilcott Brooks.
Schemes include excluding livestock from the river to reduce sediment and nutrient input, thus improving water quality. The fenced off areas also form buffer strips alongside the river, allowing vegetation to grow and enriching the habitat for local wildlife. There is also opportunity to reintroduce natural processes to ‘slow the flow’ in the headwaters, important for reducing flood risk downstream. Opportunities for leaky dams, scrapes and tree planting within this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are being explored, which would offer multiple benefits including flood management (NFM), improved water quality and increased biodiversity.
Thank you very much to those of you who have supported us with riverfly monitoring throughout 2021, we’ve had a fantastic year. BART ran a total of seven Anglers’ Riverfly Monitoring Initiative (ARMI) training courses – an annual record! Our new monitors are already out and about collecting riverfly data, reporting potential pollution incidents and helping to protect our rivers and streams into the future.
As a result of the pandemic, the training courses consisted of two parts, 1) an online theory element with a test and 2) a practical session on the river. The practical sessions were held at suitable locations within 5 river catchments: the Chew , Marden, Egford Brook (Frome), Langford Brook (near Congresbury) and Keward Brook (Wells). The Keward brook sessions were funded by the Wild Trout Trust as part of their exciting TWIST (Transforming Waterways In Somerset Towns) project. Further information can be found here. We also led the practical element of a training course organised and run by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust on the River Biss in Trowbridge.
Despite last minute cancellations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 61 volunteers successfully undertook the online theory and attended BART’s practical training sessions. We received very positive feedback from volunteers regarding the online training and the practical sessions which were considered informative and stimulating. Volunteers left the training sessions inspired and well equipped to undertake their own monthly volunteer riverfly monitoring at sites of their choice.
For health and safety reasons it is advised by the Riverfly Partnership and BART that riverfly monitoring is undertaken in pairs. Some monitors teamed up with other newly trained volunteers and some found pairs of their own. In 2021, to date, 26 new ARMI sites have been set up under the BART Bristol Avon hub. The new sites are on the following watercourses: Sheppey (x3), Norton Brook, Land Yeo (x3), Hazel Brook, Trym (x2), Buddy Brook (Butcombe), Hollow Brook, Babylon Brook (Chew Stoke), Langford Brook, Chew, Mells Stream (x3), Keward Brook, Stoke Brook and Somerset Frome (x5) and Rodden Brook (trib of the Somerset Frome).
In addition to these newly registered sites, we also have sites in progress (seeking landowner permission or locating a suitable site for example) on the following watercourses: Bristol Frome, Land Yeo (x2), Mells Stream (x1), Langford brook / Congresbury Yeo, Malago Brook, Winford Brook, Marden, Axe (x2) and Folly Brook (Chew). We are supporting all the new monitors in order to get these sites up and running as soon as possible.
As well as setting up new sites, the monitors from the 2021 training courses have in some cases chosen to take on existing sites – either because they had been abandoned by historic monitors or because the existing monitors needed support to continue monitoring regularly. The new monitors have taken on existing sites on the following watercourses to ensure the valuable long term data collection continues: Brislington Brook, Somerset Frome, Chew (x2), Little Avon and Marden and Egford Brook.
BART’s 2021 training sessions have resulted in monitoring on many new watercourses as well as extending the network of sites we had already established in some areas. As a result of such a successful year of training we now have nine sites on the main River Chew and yet more on the tributaries.. Our network on the Somerset Frome has also significantly increased with five new sites on the main and again more on the tributaries. You can find a map of our sites here.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about riverfly monitoring or becoming a riverfly monitor then please contact Jess@brisolavonriverstrust.org
SmartRivers 2021 SmartRivers is a scheme spearheaded by Salmon and Trout Conservation (S&TC). It is a water quality monitoring project that trains volunteers to undertake macro-invertebrate samples in order to collect species level data which can be analysed to understand more about the pollutants that are stressing our rivers.
BART signed up to the SmartRivers Initiative in 2019 and Jessy Grant, BART’s Aquatic Ecologist, undertook our first macro-invertebrate sampling and species level analysis in Autumn 2019 at five sites on the River Chew. Since then we have collected a total of four sets of data on the River Chew sites and in 2021, thanks to funding from Bristol Water and the D’oyly Carte Charitable Trust, we extended our SmartRivers network onto the Congresbury Yeo.
SmartRivers uses macro-invertebrate data to assess which of the following pressures are impacting on each macro-invertebrate sample site: Pesticides, Flow, Organics, Nutrient “P” and Siltation. It is no surprise to find that our results show that both the River Chew and the Congresbury Yeo are being impacted by multiple stresses and sources. At the time of writing this newsletter the latest data analysis is still in progress and the findings from all our SmartRivers work will be collated by BART over the next few months. The data from the SmartRivers programme will then be reviewed and used to help inform and focus our environmental work within the Chew and Congresbury Yeo catchments.
BART is working in partnership with the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, and Nature Metrics to better our understanding of fish species distributions in the River Chew, by carrying out a pilot environmental DNA (eDNA) survey for individual fish species and communities. Sources of eDNA include secreted faeces, mucous, gametes, shed skin, scales, hair and carcasses. DNA tends to remain in the water for up to 48 hours depending on size of river and flow conditions. The technique used to examine the DNA is a highly validated and widely used analysis that has been shown to outperform electrofishing for fish community assessment.
The survey technique is quite straight forward: water samples were collected at 30 planned locations throughout the river, each sample was passed through a filter, and then sent to a laboratory for metabarcoding analysis to identify which species were present.
The eDNA survey has provided BART with a valuable fish species distribution dataset for the River Chew catchment for a point in time when migratory fish are moving throughout the catchment in search of refuge and spawning habitat. Rather remarkably, during the February 2021 survey, Atlantic Salmon were detected, but their presence was limited to a small section of river in the lower catchment (below Compton Dando) including a potential spawning tributary. Atlantic salmon spend most of their life at sea but return to spawn in the same stretch of river or stream in which it hatched. The juveniles will stay in freshwater for up to six years, after which they migrate back to the sea.
Encouraging as this may seem, it is far from a success story… the eDNA dataset suggests that there is low diversity of fish colonising the lower river catchment and distributions of species were fragmented throughout the entire river system. Throughout sections of slow flowing river, where one would expect to see populations of coarse fish, such as Roach and Dace, there were very few recorded. This paints a similar picture to the Environment Agency’s summer 2019 electrofishing surveys, which showed an overall decrease in the estimated population densities of key fish species at three of the four sites in comparison to their 2016 survey. The Environment Agency surveys also show that there had been declines in population densities of adult and elver European eel, Brown trout and Grayling between 2016 and 2019. The Environment Agency say that the survey results from 2019 are comparable to historic year’s surveys in the mid-2000’s, with 2016 having better catch results. However, they acknowledge that catches are still lower than expected given the habitat available.
The likely cause relates to a combination of factors, including barriers to fish movement (weirs, sluices etc), pollution impacting water quality, quality of habitat and extreme weather. The River Chew is impounded by weirs and reservoirs for water supply, has undergone channel straightening, bank reinforcement, felling of floodplain woodland for pasture, removal of riparian vegetation and woody debris, landscape drainage and formation of embankments to prevent connection of floodplains. What we are left with, is a river catchment that has become disconnected, formed of small-scale disjointed habitats rather than a free-flowing watercourse. Pollution events over the years have left some watercourses with fragmented fish populations where natural recovery is very difficult. In turn, this has impacted wildlife, including recruitment and population distributions of fish.
Rather than focussing on short-term fixes, at BART we promote the proactive approach of ecosystem management to build up the resilience of fish stocks through measures such as habitat enhancement and improving water quality. This strategic approach will address the needs of mixed fish populations and the ecosystems of which they are part of.
The presence of small populations of critically endangered UKBAP and SAC designated fish species, such as the Atlantic salmon and European eel suggests remedial measures must be delivered in order to improve access and quality of habitat alongside addressing water quality issues. Given the proximity of the Bristol Avon and its tributaries to the River Severn SAC/SPA/SSSI, it is of great importance to migratory fish. Therefore, we have an opportunity to improve populations of critically endangered Atlantic Salmon and European Eel, amongst the many other species, to increase freshwater biodiversity if we take action to improve the condition of our rivers and streams as well as providing access. This will require a collective commitment across stakeholders and BART is leading the way to raise awareness and the importance of life under the water.
Burrington Combe Natural Flood Management BART are working with North Somerset council to identify flow pathways and develop opportunities for Natural Flood Management (NFM) improvements at Burrington Combe. We are engaging with landowners within the landscape and local stakeholders to explore the feasibility of these options within the sub-catchment.
As part of this project, BART hosted a workshop with North Somerset Council and Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council, to discuss how NFM methods can help provide multiple benefits including reducing the sediment loading of drainage networks, reducing localised flooding of highways and infrastructure, and increasing carbon storage and biodiversity.
Earlier this year, BART implemented natural flood management techniques, including construction of wildlife ponds, attenuation features and infrastructure improvements at multiple locations throughout the sub-catchment. The site demonstrates how a combination of measures introduced across this sub-catchment has improved floodplain connection, slowed the flow of water during rainfall events, reduced sediment and nutrient inputs, sequester carbon and create new wetland and woodland habitat.
We were pleased to return to this project site to demonstrate these processes ‘in action’. We plan to deliver similar multi-benefit schemes throughout the catchment in the future.
Thank you to North Somerset Council for funding this project. For more details about our work at Burrington Combe, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Medusa: finding pharmaceuticals in our rivers
BART provided volunteer support to help on Project Medusa, a project led by two University of Bristol students to investigate levels of pharmaceuticals in our rivers. The project was very simple – test some local sites for a pre-agreed list of pharmaceutical elements to see what was there. Once known the students planned to run a local Antimicrobial Awareness campaign. Sampling took place back in the Spring when leaves were beginning to burst through, but due to Covid and the many other University and student priorities the high level results only became available as the leaves began to fall this Autumn.
Of the list of 75 pharmaceutical elements that the students were able to test, 22 were indeed found in identifiable quantities on the day in question in our local rivers – a fine day on a set of rivers unaffected by rain in recent days. Sites on the Bristol Avon such as the Shallows at Saltford, the park in Keynsham and the mouth of the Bristol Frome all contained 18 – 22 of these substances. So, in a simple presence and absence test pharmaceuticals were found in our local rivers, but what does this mean? BART have no expertise in deciphering this data in respect of AMR but hopefully this info will help those conducting further research in our Universities.
Universities and the WHO quote wastewater treatment regimes (and CSOs) as not entirely effective in removing the chemicals that can lead to increased microbial resistance. Different wastewater treatment technologies could mean potentially huge expenses for water companies or the Government – and ultimately customers. Actions will therefore likely depend on emerging knowledge of risks and subsequent pressure as we learn more and more. Other less capital expensive ways of helping are to prescribe less and find alternative means of managing some illnesses without antibiotics such as prescribing time in the outdoors or in some form of social activity. We will leave awareness of these potential solutions for our students to pursue!
For BART, however, the aspects which most concern us are those that impact the creatures that live in our rivers and the food chains they depend on. Feedback from Universities and the water industry is that the sheer number of potential investigations possible and the expense involved, make this an almost impossible task to accomplish and so knowledge will increase only slowly and potential damage will continue in the meantime – perhaps not letting these substances get into our rivers in the first place would be a good precautionary first step?
BART will continue to research this issue as opportunities arise.
Tree Planting in Woollard 21st December
BART are seeking volunteers to join us planting trees at Bell Farm in Woollard to improve the river habitat and wider landscape. Please contact George for more information.
Become a BART Beacon BART are seeking every day river heroes to help us protect and restore the rivers of the Bristol Avon. We aim to expand our network of BART Beacons so we can gain a more comprehensive picture of what's going on around the catchment.
We know how much people love spending time near, in or on the water and we would like committed volunteers to use this time to help BART look after our rivers and streams. BART Beacons are our eyes and ears on the ground, responding to issues or letting us know if they spot opportunities for improvement on their local river. It is a non-committal way to volunteer and anyone can do it!