The Catchment Systems Thinking Cooperative (CaSTCo) project began in June of 2022 and will continue until mid-2024. It is a partnership led and funded (£7.1 million) by United Utilities, managed by the Rivers Trust and delivered by twelve water and sewerage companies as well as academia and environmental charities to revolutionise the way crucial data about England and Wales’s water environment is gathered and shared, on the health of the nation’s rivers.
Only 14% of rivers in England are in ‘good health’ – one of the worst records in Europe. This project will ensure there is robust evidence base for tackling environmental challenges with direct support for local evidence gathering and community engagement in eight demonstration catchments, and a national framework of standardised tools and training.
The Wye and Usk Foundation was awarded £1.1M for the River Usk Catchment and has four key packages of work that fall under the CaSTCo Project:
- The creation, development, and management of a Citizen Stewardship (Science) group and programme of ongoing monitoring along the Usk River catchment and its tributaries
- To put in place a water quality monitoring programme on the Usk catchment to deliver a robust and clear set of data to support the diagnosis of current conditions and challenges as well as to support the verification of the Citizen Stewardship monitoring programme
- To create a working data platform to allow the data generated by package 1 and 2, as well as academic data and past WUF data on the Usk, to be collated and shared and studied in an ‘open book’ approach
- Adopt a tributary of the Upper Usk (The River Crai) as a demonstration area to allow a controlled experiment supporting improvements of riparian habitats, farming techniques and natural flood management along the length of the tributary. Alongside this will be a programme of monitoring water quality and river conditions to assess the effectiveness of these approaches. A nearby tributary will also be monitored but not improved to provide a comparable baseline for the changes made to the demonstration tributary. At the conclusion of the study, there will be a dataset of impacts and outcomes to support the model for wholesale river regeneration alongside a cost-effective model for undertaking the work across the entire catchment.
WUF are excited by the CaSTCo project because it allows us to undertake work across all its departmental areas of expertise and because it represents a strong linkage between the process of monitoring the health of the river and delivering effective tools to slow and reverse the degeneration of its current condition. By linking Citizen Stewardship with effective tools for delivering improvements and tracking their progress, we believe that this project gives us the opportunity to work closely with the public, stakeholders, statutory bodies, and academia to create an effective path to improved river health.