Clean Water for Wildlife was a Freshwater Habitats Trust citizen science survey, which raised awareness of the true extent of nutrient pollution and helped us identify clean water habitats in England and Wales.

About Clean Water for Wildlife

With funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund People, Ponds and Water project, we were able to provide over 30,000 Packtest kits to volunteers. This helped them to record the two of the most widespread and damaging nutrient pollutants: nitrate and phosphate.

Funding for this project is now finished. To find out more and to order kits, please visit the KYORITSU website. We no longer send out testing kits.

Download the Clean Water for Wildlife leaflet
Woman's hand holding two test tubes of liquid, one dark pink, one light pink, next to a waterbody.

What is clean water?

Most freshwater plants and animals evolved over millions of years in a world where the natural level of nutrients in ponds, lakes, streams and rivers was very low. When more nutrients are added to the freshwater environment this can cause profound changes and the freshwater wildlife struggle to adapt.

We define ‘clean water’ as that which has a chemistry and biology which would be normal for a given area in the absence of human disturbance. This is commonly referred to as the reference condition, minimally impaired water quality or natural background levels.

Sadly, it only takes a little pollution to damage habitats like streams and ponds, and to harm the most sensitive plants and animals that call these places home. When ‘clean water’ is lost, we risk losing this variety and richness of life.

Water quality testing kits

Until recently, it was difficult to discover the level of nutrients in any individual waterbody without expensive laboratory analysis. But now, rapid water quality testing kits are much quicker, simpler and more accurate than in the past.

These Packtest kits can quickly identify areas of clean water, which are likely to have little or no nutrient pollution. They are also good for giving a fast, broad assessment of the extent of pollution. Overall, the kits provide a reliable method for quickly screening large numbers of sites to determine whether nutrient concentrations are at, or near, natural background levels, and identifying sites experiencing nutrient pollution.

However, because the kits categorise nutrient concentrations into quite broad bands, they cannot get as close to the true value of a nutrient concentration as a laboratory measurement. For nitrate, although results from the kits are broadly correlated with laboratory data, they seem to consistently underestimate concentrations, compared to the values measured in the laboratory. The difference is less pronounced for phosphate but the kits do still consistently under-estimate true values. It is also worth remembering that the kits will place a water sample in the correct water quality class, as shown by laboratory analysis, about 80% of the time. Conversely this means that roughly one in five samples will suggest that the water is less polluted than it really is.

To find out more and to order kits, please visit the KYORITSU website. We no longer send out testing kits.


Man leaning over pond with water testing kit.