Working together to improve the River Evenlode


Helena Soteriou, Catchment Initiatives Programme Manager, Thames Water

Managing the water cycle in England and Wales is a responsibility divided amongst many organisations, all with different regulatory systems, funding mechanisms and timeframes. But there are also thousands more community groups and businesses that depend on, benefit from, and interact with water on a daily basis. This can create a somewhat disjointed approach to how we take care of our rivers, making it much harder to maximise the value of the work we do individually. To overcome these hurdles, we must work together.

Thames Water has set out an ambitious approach on how it wants to protect and enhance river catchments across its region. Called the ‘smarter water catchments’ initiative, it looks at the environment as a ‘system’ and involves organisations setting a vision and working in partnership. This project aims to make bigger and better improvements to our rivers than wecould make as individual groups and organisations. More specifically, it involves the creation of a truly collaborative 10-year plan that will address multiple challenges, such as climate change, and co-deliver innovative solutions that make the most of opportunities on an even bigger scale.

The River Evenlode catchment is one of the first areas to have co-developed a Smarter Water Catchment Plan. The catchment is home to some of the finest landscape in the country, severalmarket towns, and unique habitats such as limestone grassland, which support a wide range of wildlife. However, the river environment at the heart of this has experienced issues with poor water quality; this has been as a result of sources of pollution as well as physical damage to surrounding habitats.

Members of the Evenlode Catchment Partnership (detailed below) have worked together and set out a plan for how they will protect and enhance this river. Over a period of six months, members from all the organisations were able to share their thoughts and ideas on how we could address these problems. We have identified four key themes and have worked up adetailed year-on-year action plan to help us deliver improvements to the overall river environment. Our plan can be found published on the Thames Water website and is broken down into:

  • Water quality and advocacy
  • Biodiversity, habitat and landscape
  • Natural Flood Management and resilience
  • Education, access and recreation

With initial funding from Thames Water, we have identified several activities throughout 2021/22 within these key themes. As an example, we will be expanding the existing Citizen Science sampling programme and providing equipment to volunteers to monitor nitrate (N), phosphorus (P) and turbidity. We plan to register an official ‘farm cluster’ in the area to contribute to the sustainable farming goals. We also have longer term aims of carrying out river restoration projects and installing wetlands to improve water quality and enhance biodiversity.

Delivering this plan will require us to all work together. We are asking all interested parties to get involved and help us protect and enhance the Evenlode. If you would like more information, orwould like to work with us, please contact or visit the Evenlode Catchment Partnership website.

Evenlode Catchment Partnership Members:

  • Atkins
  • Berks Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)
  • Blenheim Palace and Estate
  • Catchment River Champions
  • ’Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)
  • Cotswolds Conservation Board
  • Cotswolds Rivers Trust
  • Daylesford
  • Earthwatch
  • Environment Agency
  • Farm-Ed
  • Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group
  • South West Forestry Commission
  • Natural England
  • Oxfordshire County Council
  • RSK
  • Sylva Foundation
  • Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre
  • Thames Water
  • University of Oxford
  • Upper Thames Fisheries Consultative
  • West Oxfordshire District Council
  • Wild Oxfordshire
  • Windrush AEC
  • Wychwood Project

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