West Cumbria Rivers Trust seeks to improve the water quality of the Crookhurst Beck

West Cumbria Rivers Trust is working with farmers to reduce diffuse pollution in the Crookhurst Beck and has teamed up with United Utilities and Lancaster University to find cost-effective ways to achieve this.

The beck, which was classed as having a “poor” ecological status under Water Framework Directive legislation, runs through an area that is heavily farmed with over 1,300 dairy cows, beef cattle and sheep, and approximately 500 people in the two surrounding villages of Hayton and Westnewton. The beck is struggling to cope with pollution, partly from agricultural sources, which is detrimental for habitats and wildlife and affects bathing waters further downstream in Allonby, so any improvements are important to the area, the local community and wildlife.

The United Utilities funded project, called EllenWise Phase 2, will pick up where the original one year trial left off, having made a great start working with the local community. In order to cope with pollution demands along other watercourses, United Utilities has previously invested in additional process units at wastewater treatment works and sewer overflows. However, these technologies tend to be expensive and carbon intensive, and, in this instance, unlikely to provide an effective solution. So, by addressing the issues at source and with a more sustainable approach, everyone is hoping that this project will make significant differences to costs and to the environment, as well as highlighting a new way of working with local communities to find the most effective solution for everyone.

Amina Aboobakar from United Utilities said: “Improving the quality of the water discharges from our treatment works can often be expensive for us and more importantly, for our customers and the environment. We are hoping that by working with farmers and other stakeholders like West Cumbria Rivers Trust, at the source of the beck and in the wider catchment, we can deliver a more sustainable approach to improving water quality as well as keeping the costs low.”

In addition, Natural Course (an EU Life IP initiative made up of a range of stakeholders who are seeking new ways of improving water quality) is funding Josh Gittins a PhD student at Lancaster University to work with farmers, West Cumbria Rivers Trust and United Utilities. Josh will investigate the benefits of investing in catchment interventions compared to costly end-of-pipe solutions.

Josh Gittins a PhD student at Lancaster University in a West Cumbria stream

Josh said: “Water is vital to life and it is always worrying to me that so many of our waters in Europe are failing to meet water quality standards.

“Projects like this are important as we increasingly need to find better ways to use resources and to make the right choices for both our economy and our environment. I am really looking forward to working with United Utilities, West Cumbria Rivers Trust, farmers and other partners on this research project.”

For more information on ‘EllenWise’, visit: http://westcumbriariverstrust.org/projects/ellen-catchment-wise