A team of volunteers is now routinely monitoring water quality on the Culm, thanks to the Connecting the Culm project and the  Westcountry Rivers Trust Citizen Science Investigation (CSI) scheme.

The scheme is designed to enable communities, groups and individuals to monitor their local waterways for both environmental and water quality parameters.  The hope is that by carrying out regular, monthly surveys people will develop a better understanding of the river environment and the threats to its health. The data is also incredibly useful to aid our understanding of the state of our rivers, and we are currently working on a scorecard system for each water body.

On the Culm we will be able to use the data to inform catchment improvement works and to connect with the residents of the Culm valley. We have had an incredible response from the community where there are many passionate voices and advocates of the river with great enthusiasm for a healthy environment for both the wildlife and the people to enjoy. So far, we have 17 volunteers signed up to Westcountry CSI surveying 19 sample points dotted around the catchment. This number is growing weekly but the more the better so if you are interested in joining the effort to monitor the Culm then do please get in touch at csi@wrt.org.uk.

Thank you for your efforts so far.  Keep up the good work, data is the first step to understanding!

Simon Browning, Coordinator, Westcountry Citizen Science Investigations

A map showing phosphate levels in the mid River Culm.

The map above shows the phosphate results we have so far for the catchment. As you can see there are quite a few points with results over 100 parts per billion (ppb) for phosphate. Phosphate does occur naturally in rivers but at very low levels around 50 ppb or lower. The higher values are most likely due to human influence – perhaps treated wastewater discharges, soil runoff from farms or domestic misconnections (typically where washing machines are plumbed in to the surface water drains). Elevated phosphate levels can lead to rapid growth of algae, which in turn can cause low oxygen levels – particularly in low summer flows. It will be interesting to see what data we get coming in over the next year and we look forward to producing a Culm scorecard using the data collected by the excellent group of citizen scientists.

The photos below are from some of our Citizen Scientists on the Culm, showing the range of characters of the river from its source to its lower reaches.  Thanks to Alan Ward, Chris Maule, Jeni Fulton Price and Susan Farrell for the pictures.