Press release: River Dee citizen science pollution monitoring

Local charity seeks new ‘citizen scientists’ in fight to tackle pollution in the Dee

Earlier this year, local environmental charity Welsh Dee Trust launched a citizen science scheme to identify sources of pollution in tributaries of the River Dee. 16 citizen scientists have been monitoring pollution, specifically looking for high levels of phosphate. To date, 67 sites have been monitored with 245 individual surveys, identifying 3 ongoing sources of pollution. Today, Welsh Dee Trust has published the results of this monitoring online and puts out a call for more citizen scientists to join them in the fight to tackle pollution in the Dee.

Citizen scientist practicing testing a water sample for phosphate

Pollution from sewage, agriculture, industry and road drains are all having a significant impact on the wildlife of the Dee and people’s enjoyment of the river. Only 43% of the river’s water bodies are achieving ‘good’ or above status, required by UK legislation, and many of the rivers iconic and rare species are in decline.

The Welsh Dee Trust will provide training and testing equipment to individuals and groups across the Dee catchment, helping to build up a picture of which areas are suffering from pollution and identify the causes. Potential citizen scientists are encouraged to contact the charity to get involved, via their website. Training events are coming up on 31 October (Chester) and 7 November (Chirk).

Pollution on the River Gwenfro

Water pollution is an ongoing and serious threat to the River Dee. Government funding for monitoring has declined and huge numbers of pollution incidents are being missed. By training and supporting citizen scientists, we are hoping to greatly increase the eyes and ears on the river, leading to more pollution sources being identified and ultimately eradicated. The scheme so far has had great success with very small numbers of people, so by increasing the number of individuals involved we believe we can have a real impact on the river and reverse its decline.

Peter Powell, Welsh Dee Trust CEO

I’ve been enjoying the pollution monitoring. Really like seeing new places along the rivers and become more familiar with the landscape in which I live. Having fun doing it is important I think. The Welsh Dee Trust project came at the right time for me as I wanted to do something more meaningful.

James Pugh, Welsh Dee Trust citizen scientist
Citizen scientists training to monitor pollution

I first saw the Welsh Dee Trust call for volunteers on the website of the angling club I’m a member of. It appealed to me because I’d been concerned about the effects of an outfall from a sewage works into the River Ceiriog. Whilst I’d written to Welsh Water and to Natural Resources Wales about it, twelve months on the problem seemed to be worse rather than better. Volunteering for the Trust meant I could test the water rather than just using my eyes and nose! With the backing of the Trust, I’ve written several times to NRW and, I’m pleased to say that on my visit this week I found a huge improvement – the sewage fungus that was growing there has gone and the phosphate level of the effluent has decreased substantially. I’ve been testing the water in other places too – on the Ceiriog and Morlas Brook and found places where the levels of phosphate are much higher than they would naturally be. Now we’re in the process of tracking down where this is coming from so we can reduce or stop it. With all of the national publicity about the condition of our rivers, it’s satisfying to know that I’m part of trying to do something about it. Hopefully, as more people get involved and as more testing is being done to identify problems locally, those who pollute will think twice and make sure waterways are safe for people and for wildlife.

Iain Nelson, Welsh Dee Trust citizen scientist