Loddon Catchment Consultancy 2015-2016

Loddon Catchment Consultancy (module code GV2LCC) ran for its first year in 2015-16. Five projects were carried out for External Clients by 25 Part 2 undergraduate students from University of Reading.

Read the Executive Summaries below to find out more about the work done by our Student Consultants.

Farmer understanding of water quality and catchment hydrology

Student Consultants: Adam Lee, Sam Martin, Libby Duxbury, Jordan Payne, Molly Powell

External Client: Affinity Water

The aim of this report is to demonstrate to our external client, Affinity Water, the attitudes of farmers to water quality. Pesticides and fertilisers applied to agricultural land can cause diffuse pollution when they are transported by drainage water from land into rivers and groundwater, potentially affecting downstream drinking water. Affinity Water supplies water for homes in the North West of Greater London, so polluted water sources have the potential to cause detrimental impacts in this region. This report provides evidence gained through a survey investigating how developed farmer’s knowledge is on water quality, soils and hydrology. Tailored questions were handed out to Reading University Agriculture students who have experience or are currently work on a farm, not specifically within the Loddon Catchment. By assessing the effectiveness of the survey it could be transferred over to Affinity Water’s work in the catchment with farmers, to help them better engage with agricultural techniques within the catchment. This report concludes with a set of recommendations that Affinity Water should consider if they want to reduce gaps in farmer knowledge in order to increase awareness and consideration of water quality.

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Exploring the use of pesticides and fertilisers in gardens and allotments

Student Consultants: Rhys Bolt, Alan Monk, Robyn Plummer, Georgina Smith, Eleanor Wright

External Client: Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Pesticides and fertilisers are major contributors to the pollution of water and soil. High levels of nitrate and phosphate make water unfit for human consumption, and this can become a huge problem when too much product is used, which can cause run-off or leaching, otherwise known as diffuse-pollution. From our project, we found that 44% of the residents of Lower Earley in our sample used organic fertilisers rather than artificial. The levels of nitrate in the soil were not found to be significant in such a small sample, as we concluded that the levels were not controlled by land use, fertiliser type, frequency of application or pesticide or fertiliser use. However, when the levels of nitrate in the soil were matched with the questionnaires, it was found that the gardens that used organic fertilisers and herbicides had the highest levels of nitrate. While the levels of nitrate in this small sample were not significant, it would be different if we were to look at a larger sample of more gardens, allotments and also farms. The phosphorous levels however were high in the gardens, especially those with vegetable plots. It was found that some of the gardens sampled in Lower Earley had almost double the level of phosphorous than in the arable soil at the University of Reading Arborfield Farm.

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Exploring the viability of developing a Natural Swimming Pool at Dinton Pastures Country Park to deliver multiple benefits of recreation, conservation and flood risk management

Student Consultants: Yara El Gowhary, Megan Jones, Jasmine Durnell, Shaorui Zhang

External Client: Wokingham Borough Council

In this report, we will give a detailed overview of the research we conducted for Dinton Pastures Nature Park. We researched the history and ecology of the park, to provide a starting point for further research. Secondary data was collected from other natural pools; we gathered information on the plant species used to filter the pools, and the general functioning of the pools. Research into the monetary expenditure was conducted by contacting other pools, most notable Webber Pool in Minneapolis, USA. Whilst waiting for lab work we used secondary data from the Emm Brook, near Dinton. This showed very high levels of phosphate, which was an indication of the nutrient levels of the lakes in Dinton Pastures.  Primary data was collected in the form of survey results, which were very encouraging. We also conducted lab work on samples we collected from the site We were testing these for CFUs and nitrogen and phosphate. When compared to the EU Bathing Water Directive, the results were what we expected, being very unsuitable for bathing.

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Has urbanisation increased the flood risk in the Loddon Catchment?

Student Consultants: Christopher Bryant, Nuala Brothers, James Preston, Ellie Homewood

External Client: Loddon Basin Flood Action Group

What did we aim to do:

  • Analyse trends between past, present and future flood events and land cover
  • Create maps which were easy to understand for the public
  • Devise recommendations regarding further development plans

How did we do it:

  • Using ArcMap to create maps
  • Use Excel 2013 to calculate changes in run off between now and standard percentage run off with urban, suburban and rural land cover
  • Carried out research into soil types in the catchment

What did we find:

  • Areas which already have high standard percentage run off will be affected the least by development
  • Suburban areas have grown in size since 1930 and the distance between suburban settlements has decreased
  • Urban and suburban areas in the flood warning zones increase as development increases since 1930

Our recommendations:

  • We recommend development on soils with a high standard percentage run off value as the run off is already high
  • Soft engineering methods are recommended for sustainable development
  • Zonal planning regulations are recommended to restrict development in areas of high risk of flooding.

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Mapping carbon stocks at Shepperlands Farm Nature Reserve

Student Consultants: Teresa Jones, Stephanie King, Chloe Knight, Emily Peka, Mark Ward

External Client: Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust

The overall aim of this project was to estimate the carbon stored within the Shepperland’s Farm Nature Reserve, and to identify which habitat stored the most carbon. A secondary aim was to recognise if most of the carbon was stored in above ground biomass, such as in leaf litter and vegetation. If so, whether most of the carbon is stored below ground within the soil or in above ground biomass.

Being the largest habitat, the forest had the highest soil carbon stock, followed by meadow and then heathland. In the forest, it was also found that the above ground biomass was higher than the soil carbon stock. However, in the meadow and heathland, vegetation carbon stock was lower than soil carbon stock. It was also concluded that compared to the meadow vegetation, the amount of carbon was stored within the heathland was greater.

Overall the investigation has found interesting results, some of which exceeded the expectation created from background literature. Further analysis would be recommended into the vegetation carbon stock of each habitat, especially in summer so a comparison with this winter data can be made.

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Thanks to our students, staff and External Clients for all their hard work.  For more information about Loddon Catchment Consultancy, please contact the module convener, Dr Joanna Clark.


Disclaimer: Please note these views represent those of the students who carried out the work at the time as part of their degree programme, and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Reading or the External Clients.