What is SmartRivers?

SmartRivers - a member of the Riverfly Plus citizen science family - enables volunteers, supported by a training scheme, training videos, an invertebrate-identification App and support programmes, to monitor the water quality in their rivers to a near-professional standard.


Nature's nursery is under stress

Salmon & trout are extremely vulnerable in their early freshwater life stages. The water in which they live must be pollution-free and plentiful in order for them to successfully mature and complete their life cycle.

Currently, the ideal conditions to maximise 'nature's hatchery' for salmon and trout are not being met in our rivers. These young fish are being subjected to subtle, and often invisible pollutants in the very water in which they live. Each of these pollutants has an environmental cost, leading to more stress in our fish and poorer quality salmon and trout.

Bug stress

Invertebrates are here to help

Invertebrates live in the same habitat as fish, so are experiencing the same water quality pressures as young salmon and trout. Through SmartRivers we are using invertebrates as a diagnostic test to understand more about the subtle pollutants 'stressing out' our fish.  They are easier and cheaper to sample than fish, and also show more revealing responses over time than the spot water samples used by regulators.

Analysing invertebrates this way has been thoroughly tried and tested through our Riverfly Census project – so we know it works!

improve health (2)

SmartRivers is the diagnosis our fish are depending on

No other volunteer riverfly monitoring scheme goes to species-level.

SmartRivers is not a programme to just collect data for its own sake. By processing your species data through our unique calculator, SmartRivers analysis can pinpoint what the problems are and where they are occurring, allowing us to control what is controllable and drive real improvements to the quality of water flowing through our rivers.

 Only by prescribing our rivers the right 'treatment', will we achieve the conditions required to support sustainable populations of wild salmon and trout.

How does SmartRivers work?

The SmartRivers Process

  • We provide two day-long courses (both shown in the videos) for your group of volunteers: the first course teaches how to take a three-minute kick-sweep sample and preserve it in alcohol for later identification to species level; the second course teaches you how to carry out species-level identification using our App for your river - the course uses the professional benchmark we have taken on your river.
  • On successful completion of the courses, attendees will receive a certificate and we will provide your volunteer hub with a microscope to use in future identification.
  • Follow-up training and support will be provided.

step 1 - Sample

We will take spring and autumn benchmarks to provide a baseline and understand which invertebrate species are in your river.

We also train you to sample at your sites using the Environment Agency's 3 minute kick-sweep protocol and preserve the sample in alcohol.

This sets you up to take your own samples in future years.

step 2 - Analyse

Record and analyse the samples to species level, following the training we provide and using the instructional video below.

If  you do not want to analyse your samples, you can send them to us to do it for you (at a modest cost).

Be sure to use our SmartRivers App and a microscope.

step 3 - Report

Send your raw data to us and we will put your species list into a unique biological calculator to derive a detailed analysis of water quality at your sites.

The analysis indicates the impact of: organic pollution, nutrient enrichment, sediment, river flow and pesticides.

Your data will be stored in our database to be shared with us and others working to improve our rivers, locally and nationally.

step 4 - Act

You will have the ability to use the data to work with S&TC to drive improvements in water quality in your river and others across the country.

For example, you can use the data to assist in river management and assess river restoration projects.

And we can use the data to work with the Environment Agency and others to address the causes of poor water quality.

riverfly census whitewater

The above steps are explained in detail in our dedicated SmartRivers training videos below:

Join us to protect your river

Why & how to get involved in SmartRivers

We provide training courses, videos, an identification App, and other tools and support throughout the process, tailored to you and your river.

We're already working with angling clubs, Rivers Trusts and many others to create a robust programme - but we need your input too!

Riverfly Partnership experience is valuable, but not essential. What is essential is a long-term commitment to improving and protecting our rivers.

We do not underestimate the challenge to grow the SmartRivers network, but we have the resources to help you meet the challenge.

If your club or group is interested in being part of SmartRivers please email

We can only run courses with groups of around 10 volunteers, but if you are struggling to find additional volunteers your local Rivers Trust or Wildlife Trust may be able to help!

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We rely on your support to protect wild fish and the places they live.

By donating or joining as a member you will be making a huge contribution to the fight to protect the UK's waters and ensure a sustainable future for wild fish.

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