Eyeing up our rivers

Photo courtesy: Sheila Palmer, University of Leeds

The latest iCASP Project, The Derwent Data Finder, will  explore whether a collaborative monitoring system could help the Environment Agency to reduce costs and to gather more information. The Environment Agency currently spends 60 million pounds a year gathering information on the state of the water environment to meet regulatory requirements.

However, many other organisations, including iCASP partners and universities, also collect relevant data which if shared might fill existing knowledge gaps and prevent duplication.

Read moreEyeing up our rivers

Managing land more beneficially

Photo Credit: Les Firbank

Leaving the EU gives the UK an opportunity to rethink farm subsidies. The government is currently exploring how to incentivise farmers and land owners to improve water quality, soil health  and flood protection. This is where iCASP can help. The Agri-Land Management for Public Goods Delivery Project is going to review and consolidate the evidence on land management interventions which generate a wide range of public goods.

The Review will focus on a selection of land management activities currently undertaken in the River Ouse drainage basin area of Yorkshire, including those supported through Countryside Stewardship.

Read moreManaging land more beneficially

Looking into nitrate pollution

Water companies spend millions of pounds a year removing harmful nitrates from drinking water and the problem seems to be getting worse. Most of this pollution relates to agriculture, so various incentive schemes to stop nitrates getting in to water have been trialled with farmers. However, the effectiveness of such schemes and the resultant reduction in nitrate pollution needs to be better understood at catchment scale.

This is one of the challenges that the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) is seeking to address, so iCASP has been submitting evidence to an Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into Nitrates.

This Summer, iCASP will be publishing a review of what we know about how agricultural land can be managed to deliver a range of public goods including a reduction in nitrate pollution as phase one of a new iCASP project. The review will be a useful source of information to inform the government’s approach to nitrate regulation and management.

Peatlands Vital for UK Water Security

River draining a peatland in Scotland Credit: Joseph Holden, University of Leeds

Research co-authored by iCASP Director, Professor Joe Holden shows how dependent the UK is on peatlands to supply drinking water.

The study published in Nature Sustainability this week is based on a new global index developed by a group of scientists from water@leeds which estimates that 72.5% of the storage capacity of UK water supply reservoirs is peat-fed water.

Professor Holden, also director of water@leeds says:

 “The UK consumes approximately 1.56 cubic kilometres of drinking water per year that has come from peatlands; that is roughly the volume of 630,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This resource supports the equivalent of 28.3 million people or more than 43% of UK population.”

Any threat to peatlands from rising temperatures, draining or burning is a significant threat to the UK’s water security. It is therefore timely that Defra has announced funding this week for the Yorkshire Peat Partnership and Moors for the Future, both partners in iCASP’s Optimal Peatland Restoration Project.

The iCASP partnership is committed to supporting the restoration work going forward in Yorkshire not least because the largest costs in raw water treatment for water companies comes from removing peat sediment and dissolved organic carbon in water draining from degraded peatlands. Over the past few decades concentrations of dissolved organic carbon in water from UK upland peatlands have increased rapidly due to changes in atmospheric chemistry and peat degradation.

Professor Holden concludes that,

“It’s imperative that we support the great work of peatland restoration agencies and partnerships which are working with water companies to enhance the condition of our degraded peatlands.”



Enhanced Surface Water Flood Forecasting Project

Yorkshire is prone to all sources of inland flooding: from rivers, rising groundwater, flash floods and prolonged heavy rainfall which can cause surface water flooding. Arguably flooding from rivers is more straightforward to forecast because rises in water level can be measured and seen in advance. However, in the case of rainfall, it is harder to forecast precisely where heavy prolonged rain is going to fall and therefore if that rainfall will cause surface water flooding by landing somewhere with inadequate drainage.

Up until now surface water flood forecasts have been limited to relatively coarse–scale county-level red/amber/green warnings issued by the Flood Forecasting Centre and static risk maps, which are more useful for longer term planning. The iCASP Enhanced Surface Water Flood Forecasting Project will therefore convert the latest advances in probabilistic rainfall forecasting and high-resolution surface water modelling into useful real-time forecasts to help authorities which have to react to potential flood events.

Read moreEnhanced Surface Water Flood Forecasting Project

iCASP the Movie

If you have read our flyers, been to our events, spoken to the team and are still not quite sure what the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme is about, try this four and a half minute movie!

It focuses on two themes: natural flood management and peatland restoration which underpin projects that iCASP is supporting. It also shows how academic research is a valuable resource for our partners and the work they are doing to benefit Yorkshire and its communities.

Happily, MPs in Yorkshire can see this too and have pledged to spread the word more widely.



Getting to grips with natural flood management

Natural flood management pilot schemes in Yorkshire are the focus of an iCASP project to develop best practice for modelling and monitoring. Defra’s 25 year Environment Plan highlights the important role that natural flood management techniques can play in flood risk management. The Yorkshire work will therefore contribute valuable learning for the rest of the UK. The iCASP project will help to develop best practice and show how natural flood management can deliver a range of benefits in addition to flood protection.

Read moreGetting to grips with natural flood management

Solving silt troubles

Too much silt in our rivers can cause a range of costly problems so it’s important to understand where it’s coming from. This is where environmental science begins to resemble detective work and may be why one of iCASP’s core team is taking a break from the programme to work with Yorkshire Water.

Janet Richardson is taking a six month sabbatical to work out where an accumulation of sediment in the Yorkshire River Derwent is coming from and what can be done to stop it.

Increased sedimentation in watercourses is unwelcome for a number of reasons including: increases in water treatment costs, the need to dredge waterways or reservoirs to allay flooding, the loss of recreational areas, and the detrimental impact it can have on fish such as salmon and trout. In her own words, this is what she’s up to:

Read moreSolving silt troubles

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RT @UK_CEH: Very cool visualisation produced by @undertheraedar from our Rainfall application (eip.ceh.ac.uk/rainfall) 👏 twitter.com/undertheraedar…

RT @ypp_peat: Come work with us! We're recruiting a Peat Project Officer to help us retsore blanket bog in the Yorkshire Dales an… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…