Rivers are the lifeblood of ecosystems and provide valuable natural spaces for a variety of recreational activities from dog walking, wild swimming to angling. However, many of our beloved rivers are in poor ecological condition, threatened by various factors from pollution to human modification.

To better understand the state of our rivers, the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) annual Bristol Avon RiverBlitz is returning on the 7th – 14th of July!

After seven successful years, BART are hopeful that enthusiastic citizen scientists will sign up in record numbers to help gather important data on the health of rivers and streams across the Avon catchment. By collecting and collating this snapshot data on water quality, BART are able to better understand the impacts affecting the health of our rivers, helping to identify priority sites in need of further investigation.

Volunteers will collect water samples from their local river and test nitrate and phosphate levels with easy-to-use water testing kits. This will give an indication of water quality at that particular time and place.

Once samples are collected, the data will be uploaded to BART’s online tool.

Data from across the catchment is then collated and the results can be viewed on the open access ‘Bristol Avon RiverBlitz Explorer’ platform, which you can explore to view the past seven year’s data!

Nitrate and phosphate are important nutrients in rivers, however in excessive quantities they cause problems for wildlife. Excess nutrients cause algae to thrive, sometimes developing into mats blocking sunshine reaching the riverbed. When algae decomposes, it depletes oxygen in the water. Lower oxygen levels and nutrient imbalance means some plants and animals cannot survive whilst other, less desirable, species may dominate. Monitoring the levels of phosphate and nitrate in our rivers is therefore essential to the management and conservation of our waterways.

Rozy Gray, Bristol Avon RiverBlitz Project Manager at BART, said: “Our annual Bristol Avon RiverBlitz project is a fantastic way for people to get out and spend time by their local river, getting to better understand the ecosystem while also taking an active role to contribute to the ongoing conservation of these spaces.

“Our rivers are facing enormous challenges of which excessive nutrient inputs are a major aspect, negatively impacting the diversity of species inhabiting our river environments. Monitoring nutrient levels, whilst simultaneously raising awareness of their impact, is what RiverBlitz is all about and we hope that people are both interested and excited to get involved to do their bit to support BART’s work in protecting them into the future.”

If you are interested in getting involved, you can sign up for free to become a RiverBlitz citizen scientist by following this link: https://bristolavonrivers trust.org/riverblitz/register.

Make sure to sign up before 1st July in order to receive your free easy-to-use monitoring kit in the post, which includes everything you need to complete a successful BART RiverBlitz survey.

Join us at BART’s in person event on the 9th of July at Midsomer Norton Town Park, BA3 2UH, 10am-2pm. Here you can collect your free water sampling kit and chat to our friendly staff about the Bristol Avon RiverBlitz project and our wider work.

Thank you to our funders: Avon Wildlife Trust, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Bristol Water, Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, The Big Give, Osbourne Clark Charitable Fund, Robert Clutterbuck Charitable Trust, Triodos Foundation and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.