Clean River Kent Campaign – December 2023 update

Two young children playing in the waters of the river Kent with arm bands and an inflatable dinghy.

An update on our campaign to protect and restore the River Kent. Need the bigger picture? Learn more about the Clean River Kent Campaign (CRKC).

We’ve come to the end of 2023 – a busy year for CRKC!

This year, we’ve continued our citizen science programme to test the water quality of the river Kent and increased the impact of our campaign at a local and a national level. We hope you’ve heard and seen some of the coverage on radio and TV and in the press.

In addition, we’ve organised a couple of river clean-ups, hosted a photography exhibition, engaged with other national and local groups, developed a new interactive mapping tool, given talks, and fundraised.

We’re in the process of upgrading our website to make it easier to find out about CRKC and to communicate with each other. We’re also investing more time and energy in social media. Our thanks to Jenny Bottomley, Charlotte Murray and Helen Tulloch for all their help to bring our communications into the 21st century!

United Utilities

United Utilities published their draft business plan for 2025-2030 (which is referred to as AMP 8 – Asset Management Plan 8). This will now be reviewed by Ofwat, and the final version should be published in December 2024. UU have confirmed that there will be funding for improvements at Staveley Wastewater Treatment Works, but have not yet provided any detail.

There are also questions about how UU, together with partners including the Environment Agency and Westmorland & Furness Council, will reduce the volume of ‘clean’ surface water which at present enters the sewers rather than flowing directly into the river.

Louise Beardmore will be in Staveley on 31 January to meet the local community, and to answer our questions. Her visit will include a private meeting with representatives of the CRKC Steering Group. There will be a community drop in from 12.30-6.00pm in Staveley Village Hall (opposite the Abbey, by the bus stop).

CRKC will be there, and UU will be joined by teams from the EA and W&F Council for what we hope will be a very informative session. The focus will be on the whole river Kent as well as the specific problems in Staveley. Please join us if you can, find out more about what’s going on, and make your views heard!

You can join the Facebook event here.

Update on the 2023/24 Citizen Science River Water Kent Testing Programme

FreshWater Watch (FWW) Nutrient Testing

Thanks to our citizen science volunteers we are now testing once a month at 20 locations on the river Kent and its tributaries! We should have our first report in the new year, and will share the findings with you. These may be less dramatic than our E. coli and Enterococcus results in 2022, but will increase our understanding of the river Kent and what needs to change.

Microbial Source Tracking (MST)

This is a fancy term for a DNA test (like the Covid test) to determine whether the E. coli which we know is in the river comes from human sewage or from another animal. We’ve received funding of £11,000 from the Patagonia Foundation and the Woodleigh Trust, and will be signing the contract with the University of Sheffield in the new year. We’ll take samples above and below the WwTWs at both Staveley and Kendal on six occasions, starting in March. We need to be slightly flexible about dates as we need some dry days and some wet days. We’ll need volunteers to help collect the samples, and to take them to Sheffield.

If you would like to know more about this, please let us know.

2024 planning workshop

2024 looks very likely to be a general election year, and we are keen to ensure that all our Parliamentary candidates understand the importance of cleaning up the river Kent. So one priority for the coming year will be campaigning and communications.

We ‘ll have two citizen science projects – the FWW nutrient testing to complete, and the MST project probably between March and May.

We considering resubmitting an application for Bathing Water designation (location to be confirmed), ensuring that we do have 100+ people at the location at least twice between May and September.

We’d also like to hold a series of talks, for example, one about septic tank management and another about farming practice, and maybe working with the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal to include a film if there is something suitable, plus others based on your suggestions.

We need to work with local universities/colleges to propose student projects which help us with our campaign.

Practical one-off projects, like an Earth Day river clean-up, invasive species removal and participation in the Kendal Mountain Festival are good ways of involving a wider group of supporters.

There are a number of other priorities – promoting the campaign via social media, updating our Q&A document which is there to support volunteers who are giving talks or doing media interviews, analysing data, critiquing reports and publications, liaising with other local groups – and many more besides.

The aim of the workshop will be to discuss these and other priorities, and to get an idea of what’s needed. We hope that participants will learn more about what is happening and get involved in a project which interests them. If you have any ideas which you would like to feed into the workshop please let us know by mid-January. We’d love to receive your thoughts.

We hope it will be an interesting day, and that everyone will have a chance to shape the next year of our campaign. The date is likely to be Saturday 24 February, probably in Kendal. We’ll confirm the details as soon as possible – keep an eye on our Facebook page for details.

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