The BART (Bristol Avon Rivers Trust) Riverblitz has taken place each year in July since 2016. It was brought to my attention by one of our Trustees, who got involved last year and suggested that it was something that LANCE Trust should be involved with: either by publicising or taking part ourselves.
Riverblitz involves volunteers picking a section of stream (or other body of water), carrying out tests for Nitrates and Phospahates, and reporting on the general state of the stream.
Nitrates and Phosphates are nutrients that enter watercourses through fertilisers, manure, sewage, waste, urban surface run-off and the use of household products such as washing detergents. Nutrients might sound like a good thing, but if the balance is wrong, they cause problems in water habitats for example a rapid, problematic increase in algae. BART explains the reasons for these tests in more detail on their website.
Quoting from the BART website:
"Figures released by the Environment Agency in September 2020 showed that under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), no English river has achieved good chemical status, suggesting pollution from sewage discharge, chemicals and agriculture are having a huge impact on river quality."
Since moving to Long Ashton, I have found the location and flow direction of streams in the area slightly puzzling, at first glance it looks like we are in a valley and you would expect all the water to flow down the valley, but Ashton Brook (the stream closest to the village) and also Colliters Brook flow back to Bristol and into the Avon New Cut. Just slightly further West the Land Yeo flows over an aqueduct across the railway near Gatcombe Farm and then out to the West and Clevedon.
So, I was interested to have a reason to do something useful and spend a bit more time having a look at our local streams. I picked up two water testing kits from a stall BART were running in Congressbury (you can also get them sent by post) and set off to the Ashton Brook to take a first sample. The testing is very simple to do if you can follow instructions, unfortunately I failed to completely follow the instructions on the first test and ended up emptying some water out which was meant to be kept. So, if you do try this, learn from my mistake and don't empty any water out until you're sure! In addition to the tests, you're asked to submit various other information about the state of the water and surrounding vegetation etc., plus upload a photograph. The results actually showed relatively low levels for the spot that I measured, which is good, but I wasn't quite tempted to drink the water.
The results are available in an interactive map here, hopefully this years results will be added soon. https://bristolavonriverstrust.org/riverblitz/
I'd encourage anyone who's interested to give it a go next year. The more samples BART get, the better picture of the state of our local streams we have, which will hopefully be useful in putting pressure on authorities to take action to improve their state. Additionally, being forced to look on a map and figure out which stream is which, and where I was going to sample, I've certainly learnt a bit more about my local environment. Maybe we'll get a group of volunteers to work together on it next year. Sign up to the mailing list to be kept updated, or keep an eye on our Facebook page or this website.