Thames Water for Wildlife

31st October 2017

Thames Water for Wildlife is coming to a close and it has been a fantastic couple of years. The project has helped thousands of people connect with and interact with their local freshwater environment.

The heart of Thames Water for Wildlife has been community involvement—increasing people’s knowledge, enjoyment and appreciation of their local freshwater habitats. This have been achieved through three initiatives: the  Clean Water For Wildlife survey, surveys for freshwater wildlife, and training to help people develop their skills.

Testing the water

Over 3000 waterbodies in the Thames region have tested through the Clean Water for Wildlife survey. Volunteers used quick kits to measure levels of nitrate and phosphate pollution in all types of freshwater habitats: ponds, streams, ditches, rivers and more. The aim is to find amazing freshwater habitats, free from pollution, where wildlife can thrive, and to reveal the extent of nutrient pollution facing freshwater life today.

Key Findings:

  • There is still clean water to be found, even in heavily impacted landscapes such the Thames region. 38% of tested waterbodies were found to be clean water habitats – free of both nitrate and phosphate pollution.
  • There are issues with nutrient pollution across the landscape in all types of freshwater habitats, but it is the running waters that are most badly affected. This is not surprising as they drain water from huge areas of land with multiple sources of pollution.
  • The majority of clean, unpolluted, water is found in the smaller waters – ponds, small streams and headwaters. These are places not currently monitored government agencies. 
  • Finally, the level of support and will to protect the freshwater environment has been immense. It has only been through the power of citizen science that a survey of this scale could be achieved.

The quick test kits opened up a new opportunity that have allowed anyone and everyone to collect credible data on water quality. The survey does have its limitations and it is likely that the percentage of clean water may be over represented as volunteers will tend to go to ‘nice’ places where the water is more likely to be clean. The kits will also never be a replacement for laboratory chemical testing, but the issues with precision may be outweighed by the ability to collect such large data sets across a landscape. The data has been revelatory. For many waterbodies this will have been the first time the water quality will have ever been measured. The kits have allowed thousand to learn and discover more about their local freshwater environment.

Let’s celebrate!

To celebrate the project successes, Freshwater Habitats Trust, in partnership with the River Thame Conservation Trust, will hold a special event at the end of November. The event will share results and findings from all the projects initiatives, and very importantly thank all the volunteers for their time and support. A report on Thames Water for Wildlife project will also be available.

Still time to get involved

The project is not quite done, with two months left to go. The larger national project People, Ponds and Water will also continue up until March 2018. So it’s not too late to get some test kits. Can you help us with one last push? Can you help to fill in just a few more gaps on the map? For more information and to request your quick kits please visit the Thames Water for Wildlife page.