Our methods

Water Friendly Farming is a catchment-scale research project based Leicestershire in the East Midlands.

The project works in three adjacent catchments: two experimental catchments and one control catchment, each around c5 km2 in area. The catchments are:

  1. The Barkby Brook, a tributary of the river Soar, acts as the control allowing background changes in the landscape to be controlled for in the experiment.
  2. The Eye Brook, which drains towards the River Welland, is an experimental catchment in which  water protection and hydrological measures are implemented, including ‘leaky dams’ to increase the landscape’s flood storage capacity.
  3. The Stonton Brook, which also drains towards the River Welland,  is an experimental catchment which includes not only water protection and hydrological measures but additional physical habitat enhancements, allowing the combined effect of both types of measures to be assessed.




Field sampling points in the Stonton Brook Catchment.


Project planning began in 2006. Baseline establishment starting in 2010 when the first biological catchment surveys where undertaken. Intensive water quality and hydrological monitoring started at the beginning of 2012. Installation of mitigation measures, which has now been completed, began in the second half of 2012 and monitoring prior to this allowed the completion of the critical baseline period.

Sampling methods

  • Water Quality – nitrate, total phosphorus, pH, conductivity are collected from a stratified random sample of freshwater habitats across all landscapes. In addition nitrate, total phosphorus and suspended sediment are sampled every eight hours from the furthermost downstream site in each catchment.
  • Pesticides – including background level monitoring  of the oil seed rape pesticides, carbetamide and propyzamide, and also metaldehyde
  • Aquatic biodiversity – from an annual stratified random sample of freshwater habitats (ponds, ditches, streams) across all catchments, surveying macrophytes, and macroinvertebrates. With additional stream surveys Fish ecology assessed using electro-fishing techniques summarising stream fish species present and abundance.
  • Ecological Monitoring – of streams using Water Framework Directive elements including macrophytes, diatoms, fish and aquatic invertebrates, and of ponds the Predictive System for Multimetrics (PSYM) based on macrophytes and aquatic invertebrates.
  • Catchment hydrology – long term, continuous monitoring of velocity, water depth and flow undertaken using doppler shift system technology at sites positioned furthermost downstream in each catchment
  • Carbon budget – to assess the contribution of aquatic habitats to atmospheric and terrestrial COand flux of methane.

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Intensive water quality monitoring in the main brooks