Water-Blitz 23rd July 2016

Mersey Basin Water-Blitz 23rd July 2016

Over the weekend 22/23rd July 2016 more than 100 volunteers took part in the first ever Mersey Basin WaterBlitz.

Water samples were obtained from a large number local rivers, streams and lakes and using simple test kits people recorded the levels of Ammonia, Phosphate, Nitrate and Coli-form present in their water samples.

We have spent the last month collating the data and producing this great map which shows every ones results and helps us assess chemical water quality in the Mersey Basin Region.

Mersey Water Blitz Scale
Over 900 tests were completed at 232 locations within the Mersey Basin Region, and from the photos that were sent in, it looks like some people had a great time carrying out the tests.

Why did we test the levels of these chemicals in the water?

Improving water quality is an essential part of protecting and improving our local wildlife populations.

Pollution from industry, road run off, agriculture, waste water treatment works and from domestic sources can enter our water bodies and can degrade important ecosystems and the species which inhabit them.

Its important to raise general awareness of the health of local rivers and streams if we hope to improve them as sites for nature to thrive.

Raised levels of Ammonia is one of the biggest killers of aquatic life, and indicates that serious pollution and degredation of aquatic life is taking place.

Raised levels of Phosphates can be an indicator of agricultural run off from fertilisers in more rural areas, but also an indicator of miss connected domestic appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines in urban areas (phosphates are present in high concentrations in washing and dish washing products).

Raised levels of Nitrates are an indicator that fertilisers are leaching from agricultural land.

All three of these compounds when present in water are invisible killers- see below for more in depth information

We tested for Coliform at 50% of locations – all tests without exception returned a positive result!

How the tests were carried out

We used simple test tablets to obtain results – participants needed to half fill a 10ml test tube, add a reagent tablet to the water in the test tube… shake it up and then wait 5 minutes to record the colour changes which determined the result.

test kits  office results

Most volunteers used the simple bottle on a stick method to collect their water samples.

Terry MIke stick Phil Stick

And then completed the water quality tests at home or at work

office results 2 Malcolm Results Hannah Sample Hannah Results Mike France

Over 100 people of all ages took part – and even TV for Greater Manchester came down to record Alex Inglis (aged 5) conducting his sample tests on the river bank with his mum Joanne

Alex on TV

Some of our water samples came from places which looked terrible – but then surprised us by having great water quality – again giving us great information and inspiration for future river restoration projects


The Results

We weighted the results in line with the Ammonia recorded – as ammonia levels is the second most important indicator to river health after oxygen levels.

Ammonia was recorded on a scale of 1 – 4 ppm however in our overall water health score a recorded result of 1 for ammonia received a weighting of 10 in the score

Phosphate was recorded on a scale of 1 – 4 ppm and received no weighting in the overall score

Nitrate was recorded on a scale of 4 – 40 ppm and received a reduced weighting of 05.-4 in the overall score

Eg Salteye Brook in Salford had a recorded level of 4 for ammonia, 4 for phosphate and 40 for Nitrate – this resulted in an overall health score of 48 (the highest possible score)

Eg Ladybrook in Bramhall recorded a level of 1 for ammonia, 4 for Phosphate and 20 for Nitrate – this resulted in an overall health score of 16 (water quality bad)

We were very encouraged by the overall results – water quality was much higher on average across the region than we anticipated in advance.

The WaterBlitz has highlighted some rivers/streams that are in terrible condition and the data obtained helps us direct resources towards these grot spots.

Other streams and rivers we found to be in remarkably good condition (eg Kickety Brook in Stretford, Sinderland Brook in Timperley, Whit Brook in Middleton) and we hope that we can create future restoration projects on these inner city waterways that build on the excellent water quality found there.

The project has re-engaged lots of people with their local waterways – and given a greater understanding why some areas have better wildlife than others.

Whilst taking the water samples – volunteers have engaged with passers by and land owners – who were curious to discover what people were doing on a Saturday morning with a bottle on the end of a long stick – people who left email addresses will have a link to these results sent to them….

All in all – we had a great fun carrying out this snapshot survey of water quality – we intend to repeat the Mersey Basin WaterBlitz on a Biannual basis in 2017 – April and October – if you would like to take part – please send your details to volunteer@merseybasin.org and we will be in touch nearer the time with full details of where to pick up your kit, conduct tests and where to send the results…

Our Mersey WaterBlitz Survey Area

Our Mersey WaterBlitz Survey Area (click to enlarge)

Many thanks to the Royal Society Of Chemistry Outreach Fund – whose generous grant enabled this project to take place