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.


We provide two day-long courses for groups of volunteers*:


Teaches you how to take a three-minute kick-sweep sample and preserve it in alcohol for later identification to species level. You will be shown how to identify the different habitats in your stretch and divvy up your three minutes sampling time accordingly.


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.

*Unfortunately 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!

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 and we will analyse them for you (at a modest cost).

Sampling is required twice a year, in spring and in autumn. Be sure to use our SmartRivers app and the microscope we will provide.

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.


Our Hubs:


Helpful materials and guides are available to view and download on our SmartRivers volunteer resources page


Common volunteer questions regarding sampling, identification and data are all answered in our FAQs section.

Register Your Group

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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Latest SmartRivers News

Dr Cyril Bennett MBE becomes S&TC’s latest honorary life member

We are proud to award Cyril Bennett an honorary life membership of S&TC for his massive contribution to protecting river ecology in general and to the Riverfly Census and SmartRivers in particular. He has been a fly fisherman for 60 years which has stimulated his keen interest in riverfly identification and aquatic ecology. Cyril is […] Read More

Incinerator proposal raises serious concerns

“This proposed incinerator at Barton Stacey in the Test Valley raises serious environmental concerns” Nick Measham, Salmon & Trout Conservation S&TC do not normally comment on local planning issues but the proposed incinerator at Barton Stacey in the Test Valley raises grave national environmental issues: 1. Abstraction in the headwaters of a fragile chalk stream, […] Read More

River Invertebrate App – Status Update

We are aware users of our invertebrate identification app have been experiencing access issues. S&TC apologises for any inconvenience caused. We are aware users of our invertebrate identification app have been experiencing access issues. S&TC apologises for any inconvenience caused. Due to a problem out of our control we have had to migrate the app […] Read More

Agricultural Pollution Update – Nov 2019

Government figures show currently only 14% of rivers are classified as healthy….. Government figures show currently only 14% of rivers are classified as healthy and rural areas are impacting 35% of waterbodies (EA, 2015). Evidence from the Riverfly Census has shown the greatest stressors on our rivers are sediment, excess nutrients, pesticides and other toxic […] Read More

SmartRivers Update – Great Stour

This autumn we took SmartRivers to the beautiful county of Kent. Thanks to the generosity of Stour Fishery Association we were able to start working on the Great Stour, an interesting river that begins away from Kent’s chalk downs, yet enjoys the full character of a chalk stream due to significant influxes of groundwater from […] Read More

Riverfly Partnership News

There are many Riverfly monitoring schemes around, so it can be tricky to understand why so many different schemes are necessary. As the population continues to expand, and our dependence on the environment increases, it is more important than ever that we keep a close eye on the health of our water ecosystems. Thankfully, there […] Read More

SmartRivers is delivering results

The hot dry summer has exposed the stress our rivers are under Nick Measham, Deputy CEO, S&TC To view the full interview click HERE The hot dry summer has exposed the stress our rivers are under – particularly in Southern chalkstreams where algal growth and sediment is choking life to a seemingly unprecedented extent. Once […] Read More

Discharges from salad washing – Update

Salad washing on the Upper Itchen: A local problem with national significance… Nick Measham , Deputy CEO, S&TC writes……. S&TC’s battle to stop Bakkavör discharging pesticides and chlorinated plant-cleaning chemicals from its salad washing activities is achieving increased environmental protection, and not just for the Upper Itchen. [Previously covered by BBC Countryfile] As a result […] Read More

Chalk streams debated in parliament

We always intended the Riverfly Census to be a lobbying document as well as reporting on the science, and this has been an excellent first political outing for it. Paul Knight, CEO, S&TC In a speech during a House of Commons debate on “Degraded chalk stream environments”, Richard Benyon MP cited evidence from S&TC’s ground […] Read More

Dear Phil, Thank you so much!

What can we say other than a huge THANK YOU!! Phil Chessum took on the challenge of running the Race to The King ultramarathon to raise money for S&TC. An exhausting 52.4 mile slog across the South Downs. Completing the course in a very respectable 10 hours 26 minutes and finishing 71st out of 750 competitors, Phil’s feet seemed to […] Read More

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