River Severn anglers to be armed with pollution monitors in major new project

The Angling Trust wants to use its thousands of members as so-called 'citizen scientists'

Anglers will be armed with pollution monitoring kits as part of a major new project to monitor levels of toxic chemicals in streams and rivers - starting with the River Severn.

The Angling Trust wants to use its thousands of members as so-called "citizen scientists", providing regular data on pollutants such as phosphates and nitrates, to help expose the full scale of the problem.

It comes after an investigation by ITV News Central last year found some Midlands rivers choking on phosphate levels up to 50 times higher than safe limits.

Glyn Marshall, who heads up the Severn Fisheries Group, was inspired to purchase his own measuring kit after seeing those findings, and has been taking readings ever since.

He said he’s been “shocked” by the level of pollutants he has consistently found in the water.

Now, he’s one of the first to sign up to the Angling Trust’s new scheme, entitled the Water Quality Monitoring Network.

Launching on the Severn, the Trust hopes that it will then be able to recruit other angling groups in different river catchments across the country by the end of the year.

"Anglers are passionate about the places they fish and have long been working on the preservation and restoration of freshwater habitats.

"Whether it’s club work parties, volunteering on Rivers Trust projects, undertaking riverfly monitoring, litter picks or bailiffing, anglers are a potent force for good and often unsung heroes,” said Angling Trust campaigns and advocacy manager Kris Kent.

"The Water Quality Monitoring Network aims to harness the power of angling clubs and anglers to understand the quality of water across England and to establish a solid foundation of data which can be used to better understand the factors affecting water quality.

"This data will also aid in the development of effective solutions to improve water quality, and will provide the Angling Trust with evidence to support its campaigning."

The data collected will include both phosphates and nitrates, as well as testing temperature, water levels, flow rates and the presence of algal blooms, among other factors.

The Trust is now urging more anglers and angling clubs to sign up to take part.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We welcome the various citizen science initiatives that contribute valuable information on water quality to help everyone involved to identify and prioritise action. 

“The water quality and the ecological health of rivers must improve. The main sources of pollution are agriculture and the water industry and there is a growing threat from plastics and forever chemicals.

“We are in the process of writing an action plan for the River Severn to address how we can help salmon in the Severn recover stocks to a sustainable level. This includes regulation, advice and actions for all sectors who have an impact on the river.”