The health of rivers is defined by 4 principle elements; water quality, water quantity, habitat quality and habitat connectivity. Ensuring rivers are as healthy as possible means we must address as many of the problems that affect these principle elements as possible.
In understanding what problems our rivers are facing we undertake a wider ranging surveys of fish, aquatic insects, habitat and water quality, as from the number and diversity of these we can determine a huge amount as to the causes of problems. Inputting the results into “Geographical Information System” or GIS we are able to prioritise where we should be working and making sure that we are always working to provide the greatest benefit, not just for wildlife, but for people.
One we have identified the problems we try to “pin point” the root causes, sometimes this might be a single structure, such as a weir blocking migration of fish, but other times it maybe diffuse pollution coming from Urban or Rural areas. The solutions to the problems are sometimes straight forward, but more often complicated and require a variety of activities to be made.
The activities vary from physical changes, to behavioural changes of the people who live and work in river catchments. Generally, it is not a single intervention that “fixes” the problem but a range of activities. The physical interventions include things like peat moorland restoration, tree planting, wetland creation, and weir removals, but can also include wider land management change, such as introduction of different grassland types, or hedgerow creation and restoration.
A key part of improving a rivers health, is that people enjoy and value rivers, and are then more aware of rivers, the challenges rivers face, and what they can do at home (or out volunteering with us) to improve rivers and our wider environment. This means engagement and education are key activities for the RRT.