Water Quality Monitoring Network
The Angling Trust Water Quality Monitoring Network was launched in May 2022 as part of our Anglers Against Pollution campaign to engage anglers and angling clubs in better understanding pollution issues on their waters.
The initial pilot project focused on the River Severn catchment and was rolled out nationally just two months later. It now has the support of over 200 clubs.
The findings from water quality tests taken by club volunteers will help the Angling Trust hold the government to account, ensuring it lives up to its rhetoric on improving our environment and meeting its own legal responsibilities, and support local initiatives to restore our rivers to a healthy state.
The initiative is supported financially by Orvis UK and APTUS tackle and the “Big Yellow Boxes” are supplied by Flambeau Outdoors. If your club would like to get involved, please contact [email protected]
This brief outline of the Water Quality Monitoring Network (WQMN) explains the rationale behind its launch, what’s included in testing, and how the data will be used:
The Angling Trust has now published the first annual Water Quality Monitoring Network report. The comprehensive report not only highlights the tremendous efforts of volunteer citizen scientist anglers but also sheds further light on the state of our rivers and the urgent need for action. Read it online here – you can also download a PDF copy, search the content, and share on social media.
All volunteers who sign up to the WQMN through their angling club receive a Joining Email with all the information they need to undertake their water quality monitoring. These include:
The Volunteer Pack includes all the instructions on how to undertake a water quality sample and how to record the results in Epicollect.
Angling Trust Code of Practice for Staff, Officials and Volunteers:
All WQMN volunteers need to adhere to the Angling Trust code of practice.
Volunteers are asked to undertake a risk assessment before their first sampling session and to send it to [email protected]
Manual Record Sheet:
This manual record sheet is a backup for volunteers in case the Epicollect app isn’t working.
Clubs and other organisations can nominate Viewers who can access the WQMN dataset. This pack provides instructions on how to access the WQMN data in Epicollect.
Interpreting Your Results:
This short guide shows how to interpret your WQMN results and includes the Water Framework Directive standards.
How To… Videos:
All of the How To… videos produced by Cardiff University are available on YouTube.
Volunteer Zoom Meetings:
Regular Zoom Meetings help to keep volunteers up to speed with developments in the WQMN and are an opportunity to ask questions and share best practice.
Phosphorous Information Sheet
Prepared by Cardiff University on behalf of the Wye Catchment Collaborative Monitoring Network, this short guide for citizen scientist explains the different forms of phosphorous and how they relate to water quality monitoring.
We ask volunteers to record observations of Algal Blooms because they can be harmful to fish, wildlife and humans and are linked to poor water quality, in particular eutrophication (phosphate and nitrate nutrient enrichment).
Algae occur naturally in inland waters such as rivers, streams and lakes. When conditions are ideal for growth, an algal bloom can occur. During a bloom, the water becomes less clear and may look green, blue-green or greenish-brown, brown or even black. Scums can form during calm weather when several bloom forming species rise to the surface. This can look like paint, mousse or small clumps.
Cyanobacteria or ‘blue-green algae’, a type of blooming algae, can produce toxins. These toxins can kill invertebrates, fish, wild animals, livestock and pets. They can also harm people, producing rashes after skin contact and illnesses if swallowed. Algal blooms block sunlight from reaching other plants in the water. They also use up oxygen in the water at night which can suffocate fish and other creatures. Oxygen is also used up when the bloom decays.
If volunteers witness an algal bloom, they should record it on Epicollect and report it to the Environment Incident Hotline. Telephone (24 hour service) 0800 80 70 60
Foam in Rivers
Foam in rivers is often assumed to be a sign of pollution, but foam is also a natural phenomenon. Thick, whitish brown foam is caused by organic matter decaying and being broken down in the water. As it breaks down it dissolves into a compound known as Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC). This type of foam is more common in peat rich areas, lake edges, and faster flowing water. Natural river foam will smell earthy or slightly fishy.
Foam that is bubbly and bright white or iridescent is usually man made and you’re likely to notice it fairly close to the source. Foam from pollutants will smell perfumed or soapy.
Concerns about pollution associated with unnatural foam should be reported to the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales.
Sewage Fungus is a mass of filamentous bacteria that grows in response to organic nutrients in water. Whereas algal blooms are suspended in the water column Sewage Fungus builds up on almost any surface where there is a flow of water and the necessary nutrients. Sewage Fungus has been frequently used as a bioindicator of organic river pollution. Its presence has been strongly associated with discharges of untreated or inadequately treated sewage, yet its presence extends beyond these areas, with contributors including airport de-icers, industrial effluents, and agricultural runoff.
In addition to being a bioindicator of organic pollution in rivers and playing a vital role utilising excess organic carbon in it, Sewage Fungus causes significant ecological impacts through direct and indirect ecological pathways. Sewage Fungus thrives in the low dissolved oxygen (DO) environment of an organically polluted river. Whilst DO is required for Sewage Fungus growth, it readily out competes other benthic organisms at low DO, quickly smothering riverbeds, greatly altering the benthic habitat for invertebrates and fish spawning. The dominating growth of Sewage Fungus also reduces hyporheic exchange flows, an important part of a rivers self-cleaning system. Similar river biofilms are also reported to accumulate heavy metals and other toxic substances within their matrix causing ecological impacts throughout the food web. Sewage Fungus uses considerably higher DO than an aquatic macrophyte of the same mass and it can maintain DO concentrations below thresholds required for other organisms. Once Sewage Fungus becomes established, it is difficult to remove, unless all sources of organic nutrients (pollution) are addressed, causing a further loss in biodiversity and other flora and fauna in the river. These ecological impacts and the striking visible presence of sewage fungus growth on a riverbed further affects people’s perceptions and use of rivers.
Alongside the complex nutrient utilisation requirements of Sewage Fungus, there are several key environmental drivers including substrate type, flow velocity, temperature, shading/sunlight, and water chemistry (e.g. pH). Flowing water is a requirement for Sewage Fungus growth, to provide a constant replenishment of nutrients. However, if the velocity of the river is too fast, then growths are scoured away, especially on more readily mobilised substrates. The substrate affects the upper limit of flow as more stable riverbeds are less readily mobilised in periods of higher flows. Surfaces such as large cobbles, anthropogenic litter (e.g., bricks), and concrete channels facilitate excellent Sewage Fungus growth, whereas fine sediments and gravel provide a less stable substrate.
Whilst sewage pollution has received a lot of attention, and rightly so, it is important to recognise that agriculture is the largest contributor to poor water quality on our waterways.
Farmers should be adhering to the Farming Rules for Water in order to minimise the impact of diffuse pollution – The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018 (legislation.gov.uk)
A summary of the rules are laid out by the EA in this policy paper – Farming rules to protect watercourses – policy paper (publishing.service.gov.uk)
It is the Environment Agency’s responsibility to ensure compliance and address non-compliance to the Farming Rules for Water and if you suspect that a farmer is not compliant you should report your concerns to the Environment Incident Hotline. Telephone (24-hour service) 0800 80 70 60 – Report an environmental incident – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). The EA and many local Rivers Trusts have teams of farm advisors who can support farmers with the implementation of the Farming Rules for Water.
- If you want to know more about the Water Quality Monitoring Network contact [email protected]