SmartRivers launched in Wales

S&TC Cymru launches its first SmartRivers hub in partnership with the South East Wales Rivers Trust

S&TC Cymru is delighted to announce that South East Wales Rivers Trust (SEWRT) is to host the first SmartRivers hub in Wales. The hub is certain to play a valuable role in assisting SEWRT restore the natural beauty and biodiversity of the postindustrial Cynon.

SmartRivers, born out of the Riverfly Census, uses aquatic invertebrates as a diagnostic test to tell us about the health of rivers and possible pollutants affecting wild fish populations.

Quick and easy to deploy, but also producing robust and powerful information, polluters of rivers and streams have already been forced to take action. "SmartRivers Delivering Results"

Richard Garner Williams, S&TC National Office for Wales

"I'm delighted SEWRT has chosen to engage with S&TC's SmartRivers programme and look forward to seeing the positive contribution the hub will make towards the Trust's ambitions. It is heartwarming to see the rivers of the south Wales valleys returning to life and I wish the all those associated with the Trust great success in their endeavours." 

river cynon smartrivers

SmartRivers provides valuable information to assist with catchment management decisions, as well as establishing an insurance policy for rivers in the form of a benchmark of their health.

The South East Wales Rivers Trust (SEWRT) was formed in 2007 to recover river habitats in the former industrial valleys of South Wales. The valley environment suffered a great deal in the industrial era, but is slowly recovering, although weirs, contemporary industrial pollution and waste water issues continue to present problems for fish habitats and migration. Thanks to European funding, SEWRT has spent in excess of£190,0000 over recent years on twenty fish easements and three habitat improvement schemes opening up an additional one hundred and thirteen kilometres of river to migrating fish. Regrettably, due to pressure of work, the Cynon did not feature heavily in the programme, benefitting from only five minor easements.  Historically, the Cynon valley was a major area of coal production and heavy industry, the consequences of which had a devastating impact on the ecology of the river. However, the very upper reaches were not so badly affected and over the years these have proved to be the areas from which life has returned to repopulate this bruised and battered river. Local interest in the recovery and importance of the Cynon has generated an enthusiastic band of volunteers, ready and willing to carry out much of the work. The driving force within SEWRT is working with the local community to value the river, carry out community river surveys and run river restoration and fly monitoring courses.

Tony Rees, Chairperson of the SEWRT said:

“As Chairman of the SEWRT I have been heavily involved in several fly monitoring programmes.  Reading about the SmartRivers project made me realise how well this would fit into a new project that SEWRT is running on a truly urban river, the Cynon. I already have funding for two fly monitoring courses locally as well as to run a river restoration course. Using SmartRivers will raise the standard of the work we will be doing to a higher level and is a perfect fit for the “River for All” project on the Cynon. It will ultimately help us to understand in greater depth the problems in our valley rivers. It will also be an excellent way to show those who join in with us the unseen life in the river that is so important to all our wellbeing, but that the public has little knowledge of.  We are grateful to Welsh Water, Pen Y Cymoedd wind farm community fund, Natural Resources Wales and Post Code Lottery for supporting the project.”

SmartRivers includes a comprehensive online and field-based training scheme, 1-2-1 support and good use of information technology, including a dedicated S&TC Invert ID App. This ensures that local community groups themselves are able to monitor the water quality in their rivers to a near-professional standard.

Lauren Mattingley, SmartRivers Project Manager S&TC

We are delighted to be continuing our water quality work in Wales through SmartRivers. The Cynon is unlike any river we have enrolled in the programme to date, so the information we will obtain through the monitoring will be fascinating. It is astounding that tiny invertebrates can give us such vast insight into the subtle, and often invisible, pressures our young fish are being exposed to. We are very excited to educate the Cynon volunteers on these pressures. SmartRivers will give them the scientific power to understand what improvements are needed and measure the biological impact of any actions they may take.”

 Nick Measham, S&TC CEO said:

“The rivers of Wales rivers suffered so much in the industrial era and sadly continue to face a lot of pressure. We are always pleased to hear about the positive work being done and some good news stories about river restoration. SEWRT have achieved so much good for the rivers under their care. We hope our SmartRivers programme will help SEWRT turn high quality citizen science into meaningful real-world action that here and now improves outcomes for wild fish and the wider habitat.”

Dennis Baynham, Secretary of the SEWRT

“The Cynon starts above Hirwaun and runs down the valley through the middle of Aberdare and Mountain Ash joining the Taff in Abercynon. It is a truly urban river in need of some TLC. It suffered years of pollution from colliery waste and the Phurnacite plant in Abercwmboi, but in the years since they stopped production water quality has improved tremendously. It now suffers with water quality problems from sewerage over flows and poor connections. I welcome this initiative as a step in the direction of identifying all the problems the Cynon. The local angling fraternity are behind this.”

 Afon Cynon, A River for all: Gareth Edge Project officer

“My project aims to improve the biodiversity of the Cynon through meaningful education, community engagement and small-scale environmental improvements. Volunteers are encouraged to undertake a Level 1 accredited qualification in River Restoration. Partner Schools look after critically endangered European eels for release on the catchment, as part of a Europe wide restocking project. River clean-ups are undertaken in partnership with Keep Wales Tidy. Invasive species will also be managed with the aid of local authority. Partnering S&TC and the SmartRivers programme will enable me to take my work to a wider audience of volunteers.”

 Natural Resources Wales issued the following statement,

“NRW is keen to support initiatives like SmartRivers, that involve communities in citizen science, and engender a wider and increased understanding of river ecosystems. SmartRivers monitoring aims to pick up issues, and working together, we can better protect and improve our river environments.”

 For more information about SmartRivers and how it could support your river management activities, please email: smartrivers@salmon-trout.org

 For more information on the work of S&TC Cymru, please email our National Officer for Wales, Richard Garner Williams: wales@salmon-trout.org

Please note: We can only run courses with groups of around 10 volunteers and not for individuals. However, if you are struggling to establish a 'hub' group your local Rivers Trust or Wildlife Trust may be able to help.

ENDS

Reporting with a purpose

S&TC is a national organisation and we use evidence from local case studies to help instigate policy changes that will benefit UK wild fish populations. But, this is just part of the value - we are making all our Riverfly Census findings available so they can be used to inform local management and drive action.

Each individual river report is based on three years of surveying data. Where possible, we have linked up our findings with other existing literature and data. Using the available information we suggest where local fishing and/or conservation groups can focus their management efforts to achieve the best health outcomes for each of the 12 original Census rivers.

Some of our local reports can be found on the slider below. Alternatively, visit the Riverfly Census page and scroll down to the map.