Irfon Catchment

The Irfon catchment in Mid-Wales is a Special Area of Conservation designated for its exceptional freshwater biodiversity, which includes one of the few remaining UK Freshwater Pearl Mussel populations. Sadly, exposure to multiple pressures means the catchment is currently failing to meet Habitats Directive and Water Framework Directive targets. 

The Irfon Catchment Resilient Freshwater Habitats project aims to establish a collaborative programme to address these issues, jointly organised by local farmers, landowners, rural businesses, foresters, statutory organisations, specialist freshwater NGOs and the water industry.

The project has two main strands: (i) practical interventions and (ii) public engagement:

(i) Practical actions include measures to tackle diffuse and point source pollution in strategic locations by: reducing pollutant runoff through farm soil and nutrient management, tree and woodland planting, reducing point source inputs e.g. from septic tanks, and introducing Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems for road runoff interception. Problems caused by rapid runoff (sediment loss, increased flood risk) will be addressed using Natural Flood Management techniques.

(ii) Public engagement in the management and monitoring of water quality, particularly using novel citizen science methods, including environmental DNA and rapid nutrient pollution testing.

Greater public engagement will provide the basis for added recreation and tourism benefits, and trialling Social Prescribing based around the water environment, to maximise health benefits.

A comprehensive monitoring programme will ensure that actions and information from the project are of wide relevance to maintaining the resilience of freshwaters in Wales.