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Monitoring the river

Monitoring the river

Update on FLOW

Adam Ellis holding a Pike caught in December from the Salisbury and District Angling Club fishery in Downton.  There are angling opportunities in the village - if you are interested in learning more get in touch with Salisbury and District Angling Club. The club also offer free taster sessions for children at their lakes at Petersfinger.

Water Quality Monitoring

Adam Ellis, who set up Community Interest Company, For the Love Of Water (FLOW), is pleased with how things have been going in the past eight months.  Adam says, “It’s been a busy first year for FLOW CIC, I am proud of what we’ve managed to achieve and extremely grateful to all the volunteers and partners that have helped us.  One of our volunteer samplers, Jane Launchbury, also produced a fantastic FLOW exhibit for the village Christmas tree festival.”

There are now 13 volunteers working on the river, from Salisbury to Christchurch, and the company has analysed over 260 water samples.  The Lower Avon Farming Cluster (supported by The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust) is now taking part in the scheme and have funded test kits for six of their members including farms upstream and downstream of Downton. Most of the samplers test weekly for ammonia, phosphate, nitrate as well as temperature and conductivity.  It takes time to accumulate data to highlight any patterns, but already there have been some very high readings for ammonia and phosphate which have been reported to the Environment Agency for further investigation. There are currently more willing samplers than sample kits, but Adam is hopeful that as funding becomes available, more people will be able to get involved.

The company is also taking macroinvertebrate samples at five locations twice a year, although levels were too high this autumn to get the 2nd sample.  The initial data from the Downton site shows river fly diversity is at the lowest of any of the sites on the lower Avon, with suggestions of stressors linked to phosphorus, sediment and organic enrichment.  This ‘SmartRivers’ scheme is run by the charity WildFish - their website has more details.  If anyone is interested in looking at this data please contact FLOW.

Downton Wastewater Treatment Works

Wessex Water have indicated that significant improvements to the Downton works are planned between 2025-30, subject to OFWAT signing off their draft business plans later this year.  There have already been works to survey and fix leaking pipes in the village sewage network, which causes groundwater to infiltrate and overwhelm the treatment works.  FLOW has arranged a tour of the works on Saturday 24 February (time tbc). This is a chance to see how the treatment works operate, as well as hearing about plans to improve the site.  A trip to the sewage works might not be on your bucket list, but a visit will provide an understanding of  how these systems work – and how our activities can impact them.  Please contact Adam if you’re interested.

Fordingbridge Bathing Water Status

In conjunction with Fordingbridge Greener Living and Fordingbridge Town Council, an application was submitted in October for the River Avon at Fordingbridge Recreation ground to be a designated inland bathing water.  Sampling has been taking place since June, analysing levels of Faecal Indicator Organisms (FIOs) at three sites (Fordingbridge Rec Ground, Downton Millenium Green, Salisbury QE Gardens) - all would be classified as ‘Poor Bathing Water Status’ based on 2023 data.  Generally, in dry summer conditions levels of FIOs are low, indicating a lower risk of setting sick after being in contact with the water.  However after rainfall, or at times of high groundwater FIO counts increase substantially, along with the risk of getting sick after being in contact with the water.  Adam remains optimistic about the chances of success.  He says, “We feel this is unacceptable for any river, but particularly so for a globally important chalk river with the highest level of protection afforded to any river in the country.  We’ll know in April if we have been successful in our application - if so, it will lead to weekly monitoring of FIOs by the Environment Agency along with investigations of sources of pollutants.  There is also a greater obligation for Wessex Water to upgrade assets upstream. High levels of FIOs can indicate presence of other less understood pollutants such as micro-plastics, pharmaceuticals, forever chemicals etc. that may also be impacting river health.  We are working with Wessex Water to get real time water quality monitoring and alerts set up for water users in Fordingbridge, we’ll share more info when we have it”.

Future plans

Working with University of York, FLOW will be sampling monthly throughout 2024, testing for insecticides from pet tick and flea treatments in the river in Downton.  This research will be looking at how they get into rivers, and the project should give a better indication of impacts.  FLOW will continue working with volunteers on water quality and macroinvertebrate sampling, and are hoping to introduce monthly volunteer Riverfly sampling in the spring.

More information from Adam:

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