Sign up to be a River Guardian on River Medway

Sign up to be a River Guardian on River Medway

Residents living close to the Medway and its tributaries are being called on to take action against plastic pollution by joining a new River Guardians Team with the South East Rivers Trust (SERT). 

The waterways charity, which is providing free River Guardian kits, is asking people to adopt their local stretch of river and carry out regular litter picks alongside the banks to keep the water plastic free.

Equipment includes a litter picker, hoop, gloves and first bag, as well as information on how to report other issues affecting the river such as pollution.

Rethinking single-use habits during Plastic Free July 

Preventing Plastic Pollution

The South East Rivers Trust has been tackling pollution in rivers ever since it was formed – as the Wandle Trust – 20 years ago. 

Becoming involved with the Preventing Plastic Pollution project, on the River Medway, seemed a natural step. Plastic pollution affects all rivers, however. Therefore we want to develop our work beyond one area by engaging with a wider public as well as including the issue in our catchment action plans.

A year’s worth of cleanups give us the perfect evidence to shape behaviour change across our whole area – and the annual Plastic Free July campaign presents an appropriate moment to raise awareness of the issues and strive to change our habits. Set up in 2011, the annual campaign aims to help people reduce their reliance on single-use plastic and live by more sustainable methods.  Below, we’ve come up with several suggestions for you to try in July – and hopefully continue with well after one month.   

Connecting the dots: Understanding what landscape recovery schemes could look like

Bringing landowners together through a series of workshops and site visits has opened inspiring conversations about what the future of nature-based solutions at catchment scale could look like.

Kathi Bauer, our Natural Capital Co-ordinator, writes an update on the South East Rivers Trust’s work on a national trial, funded by DEFRA, for the new agricultural subsidies programme – Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS).

Action on sewage in rivers

Raw sewage is entering UK rivers on a horrifyingly regular basis, damaging our river ecosystems and putting public health at risk. In 2019 alone, untreated sewage poured into England’s rivers for an astounding 1.5 million hours, over the course of 200,000 separate incidents.

What’s really shocking is that, much of the time, this practice is completely legal.

Across the UK is a network of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). These are essentially Victorian-era relief valves on the sewage treatment infrastructure. If sewage piping, or even a sewage treatment works, is becoming overwhelmed with sewage and rainwater, it is diverted and discharged into a nearby watercourse instead of backing up into homes.

Water, water everywhere…or is it?

By 2050, the South East of England will need to find at least an additional one billion litres of water per day to meet demand in the region. That is about a fifth of the water used in the region today, and equivalent to the water use of seven million people per day.  Demand for water will exceed supply by 2030.

This is because of a combination of different factors. Some of it is because of the expected growth in population (even if personal water consumption is reduced). Some because water companies are trying to ensure that they have enough water available to continue supply even during more significant drought periods.

Finally, climate change will affect when water is available, and how much. Unsustainable abstractions need to be reduced in order to avoid our rivers and wetlands being damaged beyond repair.

How to solve a problem like soil moisture monitoring – featuring Friston Forest

We have finally been able to install some of our baseline monitoring equipment, which we are using at one of our pilot sites for the PROWATER project!

PROWATER is a partnership project that the South East Rivers Trust is delivering locally with Kent County Council and South East Water. The project will investigate the opportunities for ecosystem-based adaptation to water scarcity and climate change.

As water is a scarce resource in South East England, we are interested in understanding the impact of different habitats and land management options on the availability of water. A lot of our public water supply in the South East comes from groundwater stored in underground reservoirs, also known as aquifers. These aquifers are normally recharged by winter rainfall. The quantity and quality of water recharged is highly influenced by how the land on top of the groundwater body is managed. PROWATER aims to understand how to quantify the benefits from those different management options, and how to reward those managing the landscape, like farmers and foresters, for making choices that protect those water resources.

Soil management for water resources – a can of worms?

Earthworms are probably not the first iconic species you think of in the context of river health. It’s easy to laugh at the notion that the wriggly pink strings that hide underneath your compost bin are a key part of a functioning hydrological system – and yet they, and the soil they live in, are.

Soil stores, purifies, retains and drains water – regulating its flow to groundwater bodies and rivers alike, and playing a key role in water quality by taking up nutrients or releasing sediment. Like any ecosystem, soil relies on a complex network of interactions between organisms of all sizes, as well as physical and chemical processes, and much more, but earthworms in particular tell us a lot about how our soil is functioning and in turn influence how it behaves.