An Outfall: a pipe that leads into a river channel.
An Outfall Safari: a survey of all pipes, polluting or otherwise, leading into river channels.
A Volunteer: someone brave enough to say "yes" to identifying and mapping all pipes leading into river channels.
The Ravensbourne river catchment: Situated in South East London and often cited as the most engineered of all London river systems, with approximately 50% of the rivers Pool, Ravensbourne, Quaggy and Kyd Brook placed in either concrete culverts, tunnels or toe-boarded, the river system runs South to North and contains 66kms of waterway.
The Outfall Safari, the first of its kind within this catchment, is designed to identify all polluting outfalls so that future citizen-science monitoring of water quality, such as the Riverfly Monitoring Initiative, can be more directed.
Much forward planning was undertaken with logistical and mapping support from the Environment Agency, Thames Water and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), with the safari itself run by Thames21. The volunteers selected themselves by generously giving up their time for the training and making themselves available for the Safari itself.
|Ravensbourne Outfall Safari Training Day 2017|
An Outfall Safari comes with an App where such outfalls are recorded, GPS marked and photographed. In daylight, such mapping takes three minutes with a signal. In a tunnel there is no signal so I had taken the necessary photos quickly to upload later.
|Polluting Outfall, Lennard Road|
Some 18 volunteers had contributed to the catchment survey over three weeks, either in the water or surveying from the bank, and in total approximately 28kms of river had been covered. Only one day had been lost to bad weather which, for October, sounds like a miracle.
Surveys, such as this one along the Ravensbourne, are essential if both water quality and biodiversity is to improve. Joe Pecorelli explains:
Misconnections and cross connections, on which Thames21 has campaigned, between the foul sewer and surface water network are a serious environmental problem, responsible for degrading the ecology of rivers in the capital.
As I worked with members of the Catchment Partnerships in London (CPiL) group to create a position statement on the issue early last year, what became clear was that it is still a deeply ingrained, knotty problem despite a great deal of effort being put in by many people to resolve it over many years.
CPiL members have committed to help tackle the issue with, among other things, the generation of evidence to determine the scale and impact of polluting outfalls.
At the moment, reporting of problem outfalls is ad hoc from members of the public who happen to spot pollution entering our rivers. Once notified, the Environment Agency and Thames Water put the offending outfalls on a list. Reported outfalls are resolved over a five-year investment period by Thames Water’s Surface Water Outfall Programme (SWOP) team.
|Ravensbourne Outfall Safari coverage 2017|
|Polluting outfall along the Quaggy|
Our thanks goes to:
Donna Davis, Stephen Kenney, Clare Cheeseright, Daisy Cairns, Anne Slater, Juliet Cairns, Tim Gluckman, Rosemary Gluckman, Hazel "Chickenwoman" Savill, John Briggs, John Caitlin, Joe Pecorelli ZSL, David Ferguson, Jane Ferguson, Lina Allu, Thea Cox ZSL, Pete Ehmann EA, Kyle Cullen EA, and Lucy Hayes for getting in the water and to Pamela Zollicoffer (QWAG) for the tour of Bromley. Also, finally, to Penny Read and Terry Hollidge of the London Borough of Bromley for getting us out of a fix at Queensmead.
Lawrence Beale Collins and Julia Grollman (Thames21 Outfall Safari Organisers)