Natural Course: LIFE Integrated Project 

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Wier Wilmslow park

An integrated approach to water management is set for the North West of England. Natural Course is a ground-breaking collaborative water management project which brings together catchment partnerships across the North West along with the Environment Agency, Natural England, United Utilities, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Rivers Trust.

Natural Course is the first LIFE Integrated Project (IP) in the UK and aims to tackle the issues and challenges presented by the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). Innovative approaches and techniques will be trialled which together will improve water management in the river catchments of North West England.

Current estimates suggest that under half of our waters are good enough to meet European standards or that they will achieve good status by 2027. The need for action in NW England is pressing as one third of the poorest quality rivers in England and Wales lie in the region. Meanwhile, long-standing partnerships and relationships developed in the NW River Basin District provide the ideal context for the enhanced integrated working associated with the Natural Course project. Meanwhile, especially in the urban areas, significant numbers of properties are at risk of flooding. These challenges and the strong record of partnership working in the North West provide the ideal basis for Natural Course.

Initially, Natural Course will bring organisations together and build capacity to deliver integrated water management solutions. The project partners will collaborate to deliver a series of innovative projects aimed at tackling issues such as diffuse pollution from urban and rural sources and reducing the risk of flood.
Wherever possible solutions which attract new sources of funding and which draw on and enhance Natural Capital will be used. A virtual cross-sector team is being established to focus initially on the River Irwell to liaise closely with planners to ensure that opportunities for integrated water management and Natural Capital enhancement are considered during the development of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and other city-region strategies.The Natural Course project partners are currently assembling a broad range of data and evidence to guide actions across the catchments within the NW River Basin District.

Natural Course is led by the Environment Agency, recognised by the European Commission as the Co-ordinating Beneficiary, working together with four Associated Beneficiaries: Salford City Council as the lead authority for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, The Rivers Trust, United Utilities Ltd and Natural England.

Natural Course supports and builds on the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) at the local level and the Beneficiaries will work closely with the Government-recognised catchment hosts including the Healthy Rivers Trust. Natural Course will run for 10 years, 2015 to 2025, and will be divided into four 2.5 year phases. The first phase of the project covers the period 1st October 2015 to 31st March 2018 when the River Irwell catchment is the focus.

The total project budget is just over €20M. The EU LIFE programme will contribute almost €12M, or 60% of the total eligible budget. The budget is focused on the first phase in order to kick-start and stimulate the new integrated approach to water management. Detailed budgets are prepared at the start of each phase, rather than for the full 10-years of the programme. The total budget for the first phase is €8.5M; €5M from EU LIFE.

The Healthy Rivers Trust has a New Director

We are delghted to announce that we have appointed Paul Henbrey as our new Director. Paul has many years' experience in the water sector and will be a great asset to the Healthy Rivers Trust. 

River Guardians Scheme Launched

Vol water sampling 1The Healthy Rivers Trust launched a pilot of its River Guardians citizen science programme in Cheadle Hulme with a training session for local volunteers on Thursday 24th March 2016.
The River Guardians are all drawn from the local community and will monitor and record water quality in two small streams in the Cheadle Hulme area as part of a wider project to improve the water quality of the Micker Brook.
The first group of River Guardians, who attended the training session on Thursday 24th March, brings together local volunteers and members of staff at the Cheadle Golf Club who will monitor water quality in a number of locations including the small stream that flows across the golf course.
The River Guardians will take regular samples of small quantities of stream water and will test for a range of parameters including nitrate, phosphate and acidity. The work of the River Guardians, and the data collected, will enable the Healthy Rivers Trust to generate a detailed picture of water quality and help to identify water quality trends within the Micker Brook catchment.
During the training session held at Cheadle Golf Club, staff from the Healthy Rivers Trust introduced the volunteers to the work of the Trust, which covers the whole Mersey basin. Specialist training in water quality monitoring techniques was provided by the Stockport-based firm of aquatic scientists, APEM Ltd.Vol water sampling 2

Caroline Riley, Partnership Manager at the Healthy Rivers Trust, said: "The Healthy Rivers Trust is delighted to launch the River Guardians scheme in Cheadle Hulme. The data collected by our local citizen scientists will help us to build up a picture of water quality in these streams and to develop future projects to improve them. We hope to learn from this pilot project in Cheadle Hulme and introduce the scheme to other areas of the Mersey basin".

Further information about the River Guardians scheme and details of how to join can be requested from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
The River Guardians scheme forms part of a programme of activities currently being delivered by the Healthy Rivers Trust and its partners in the Cheadle Hulme area.