Great UK WaterBlitz - Earthwatch

Join the fight for healthy freshwater in the UK

The Great UK WaterBlitz is a biannual campaign calling on everyone to go out and test the quality of their local freshwater including rivers, streams and lakes. This helps to build a national picture of water quality across the UK.

Our rivers and freshwater habitats are at crisis point and we need urgent action. With this data we can fight for real change.

Over the weekend of 7-10 June, over 2,600 people across the UK went out and measured the water quality of their local rivers. With this data we were able to capture a snapshot of the health of our rivers throughout the country. We need this data so that we can take action to restore our rivers and freshwater systems.

  • 75% of data points across the UK showed poor ecological health with significant regional variation.
  • The Anglian and Thames regions have the worst water quality with up to 89% of data points showing poor ecological health.
  • The Solway Tweed area in the North West showed the best health with only 50% of data points showing unacceptable levels of nutrient pollution.

You can explore the results further in the Great UK WaterBlitz June 2024 report:

We are grateful to our funder, the WFH Foundation, who supported the first ever Great UK WaterBlitz.

Join the next Great UK WaterBlitz

The Great UK WaterBlitz returns this September! If you would like to take part, you can register your interest below and we’ll contact you when registration opens.

If you are interested in joining the Great UK WaterBlitz taking place this September, simply fill in your details below.

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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


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. To change attitudes and policy towards rivers, we need robust data on water quality. Citizen science activities like the Great UK WaterBlitz and ongoing monitoring via the FreshWater Watch programme are vital to provide a robust, data-driven picture of the health of our rivers.

How will you use the data?

The data you submit as part of the Great UK WaterBlitz will be analysed and compiled into a public report, which will be published in the weeks following the Great UK WaterBlitz. The analysis in this report will be used to create a snapshot of freshwater across the UK. 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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