Restoring and protecting healthy, clean and resilient watercourses
Why make rivers more resilient?
Very few rivers have not been modified by human activity. Historical straightening and deepening were designed to remove water as fast as possible to drain the land for agriculture. Weirs and dams are known barriers to fish and eel migration. Coupled with pollution and invasive species, our rivers in England are in a poor state, none are currently classed as healthy!
Habitat restoration works to recreate natural river processes and small-scale enhancement measures, such as installing berms, help increase biodiversity, address climate resilience by increasing water storage and improve water quality.
The Upper Witham, Welland, limestone becks (including the river Slea) and chalk streams are the priority watercourses for major habitat restoration and enhancements measures. Where the watercourses are heavily modified, flood risk is higher and/or the land classed as high-grade for agriculture, the options for improvements are limited, but there are enhancements that can improve the habitat.
EMRT works with landowners, farmers, local authorities and communities to
reconnect floodplains to their watercourses,
install in-channel features such as berms and back channels,
scope out and install natural flood management features and
plant wildflower meadows and trees.
Many water quality problems arise from multiple sources of diffuse pollution, spread across the landscape. Along with the stresses of plastic and synthetic chemical pollution and climate change this is creating multiple pressures undermining the health and resilience of rivers. There is known to be high levels of mercury and diffuse pollution from agriculture in both catchments. The Rivers Trust (RT) released the Sewage Map detailing the duration and location of active sewage overflow discharges.
Himalayan Balsam is well established across the Witham Catchment, whilst there has been localised success removing the plant, it continues to be a problem. There has been previous activity on the Welland to remove balsam, but the plant has become well established around Stamford and spread upstream towards Market Harborough and downstream towards Uffington.
EMRT has worked in partnership with RiverCare and the Environment Agency has been successful in reducing Floating Pennywort on the Witham. Whilst Floating Pennywort is present on the Welland, it is not believed to be prevalent. Azolla is a major problem on the lower Witham.
Signal crayfish are known to be present across both catchments. Demon shrimp, widely present in the Witham, the River Gwash and Rutland Water are expected to colonise suitable habitat in the Lower Welland with time. Zebra mussels are present in Rutland Water but have not yet been recorded in the Gwash. There are reports of Chinese Mitten Crab in the tidal sections of both rivers.