Testing the Water is part of The Brecks’ Fen Edge & Rivers Landscape Partnership Scheme (BFER LPS), is a Landscape Heritage Scheme for the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks. It builds on the legacy of the Breaking New Ground Landscape Partnership Scheme (2013-17) to continue to develop and refocus engagement, public awareness and positive action on the heritage of The Brecks’ fen edge, river and wetland landscapes in this unique part of East Anglia.

Aerial view of the River Thet and surrounding ponds in the Brecks

Between 2020 and 2024 the Partnership is running a minimum of 24 projects, including Testing the Water. This involves working with partners and communities to explore and raise awareness of water resource issues. The partnership will restore key rivers and habitat corridors and celebrate the historic links between human settlement and water, contributing to the area’s sense of identity.

Testing the Water: a citizen science project

Freshwater Habitats Trust is leading on one of these projects: ‘Testing the Water’. This is a citizen science project to raise awareness of habitat loss, pollution and rare species.

We’re involving local people in practical activities to get new information about the project area. This includes getting involved with surveys and carrying out cutting-edge environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of ponds, streams, ditches and river headwater streams. Volunteers are also using rapid water quality test kits to reveal the pollution that is otherwise invisible and largely unknown.

Woman kneeling next to a waterbody, wearing blue disposable gloves, pointing an eDNA testing kit at the water.

Learning more about freshwater wildlife

We’re mapping the results of these volunteer surveys, to identify water quality and find out more about the distribution of key Red List species in the project area.

This is helping to increase local awareness and inform better conservation management practices. We’re also providing workshops, activities and events for families, including curriculum linked schools’ engagement.

Hand holding a clip board with a leaflet and map next to a pond