Great UK WaterBlitz - Earthwatch

Join the fight for healthy freshwater in the UK

Our rivers and freshwater habitats are at crisis point and we need urgent action. This year we’ve launched the Great UK WaterBlitz to help build a national picture of water quality across the UK. With this data we can fight for real change.

Over the weekend of 7-10 June, we’re asking people across the UK to go out and measure the water quality of their local rivers. With this data we can build a snapshot of the health of our rivers throughout the country. We need good data so that we can take action to restore our rivers and freshwater systems. To take part, simply sign up using the form below and we’ll send you everything you need to easily measure your local water quality.

We are very grateful to our funders, the WFH Foundation who have supported the Great UK WaterBlitz.

Only 14% of the UK’s rivers are considered to be in good ecological health, and every single one of them fails to meet the required chemical standards.

How to take part in the WaterBlitz

  1. Sign up using the form below.
  2. Confirm your registration and we’ll send you an easy-to-use water quality monitoring kit
  3. Measure your local water quality over 7-10 June
  4. Upload your results via the app or the website

FreshWater Watch is the largest citizen science water quality testing programme in the UK. FreshWater Watch trains communities to use our simple water monitoring toolkit to detect nutrient pollution. It is not always possible to determine water quality at first glance. The FreshWater Watch toolkit helps to uncover the secrets hidden underneath the surface and makes the invisible, visible. With this robust data we can fight for real change.

FreshWater Watch testing on the River Thames

Supporting organisations

We are grateful for the support of the following organisations:

It costs £6 for each water testing kit used in the Great UK WaterBlitz and we rely on voluntary donations to support our work. Every donation means that we can test more rivers in more locations across the UK. Please donate to make the Great UK WaterBlitz as big as possible.


Who can take part in the Great UK WaterBlitz?

Anyone who wants to help fight for better water quality can take part in the Great UK WaterBlitz. We want people across the UK to measure their water quality over the weekend of the 7-10th June so that we can create a national picture of the health of our rivers.

Where can I test?

You can test any freshwater body (rivers, streams, canals and lakes), anywhere in the UK. Freshwater that is downstream of a sewage treatment works or an outfall pipe is more likely to have higher nutrient levels than freshwater that is upstream of potential pollution sources. Before you do your test, make sure it’s safe to do so – we advise staying several metres away from potential pollution sources for your own health and safety – and that you have permission to be on the land (if it is private property). 

Do I need to have done water quality testing before?

No. The testing kits are easy to use and you don’t need any experience to take part in the Great UK WaterBlitz.

How long will the test take?

The test should only take about 20 minutes to complete the water testing.

What will I be measuring?

The WaterBlitz kit you will be sent will enable you to take easy measurements of the nitrate and phosphate levels in the water. You will be recording some simple visual observations of your chosen waterbody.

Why are nitrate and phosphate levels important?

Nitrates and phosphates occur naturally in the environment and are essential for plant growth. Healthy freshwater ecosystems usually have small amounts of these nutrients which help to sustain aquatic plant life. However, human activity on land can cause unnaturally high levels of nutrients to enter them.

Nitrates and phosphates are commonly present in domestic and industrial waste and sewage, as well as in the fertilisers that wash off farmland.

High levels of nutrients trigger a process called eutrophication, in which excessive plant and algal growth leads to high levels of bacteria, which in turn decrease oxygen levels in the water, killing plants and animals.

Where will my data appear?

After submitting your survey, please allow up to 15 minutes for your results to appear on the public event map. Your results will also appear on the global map from 17 June.

Why is the data important?

Rivers are suffering from pollution from a number of sources – sewage, nutrients and chemicals. Through understanding which areas are being affected by pollution, we can direct targeted mitigation to improve water quality and protect freshwater environments.

How will you use the data?

To change attitudes and policy towards rivers, we need robust data on water quality. Citizen science activities like FreshWater Watch and the Great UK WaterBlitz are vital to provide a robust, data-driven picture of the health of our rivers. We will use this data to challenge water companies on their action; provide the Environment Agency with information on rivers they do not monitor; and to inform the Office for Environmental Protection on any activities we suspect are illegal.

Do I have to live near a river to take part?

No, but you do need to be able to get to one over the weekend of the 7-10 June.

What individual actions can I take to improve the health of our rivers?

Ensure that you dispose of waste products appropriately; avoid flushing wet wipes down the loo or tipping fats, oils and grease down the sink. Remember, if it goes down the sink, it ends up in your drink.

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