Polluted water is a problem if we have to drink it. However, it can also be a problem for the plants, insects and fish that require clean water to survive. Traditionally, we accepted that water can become polluted because we discharge waste into it. Now, we also know that water can be polluted because of waste produced from across whole landscapes (excess fertiliser, animal manure or soil). This type of waste comes from a large number of places (e.g. fields) but in small amounts. It becomes a problem because it gets funnelled into our rivers where the concentrations can be very high. This is called diffuse pollution. Across the world we are trying to improve our rivers and streams for the living creatures that are being impacted upon by diffuse pollution. How can we make our rivers and streams clean again?

To make our rivers and streams clean again, we need to be able to work out where the pollution is coming from. Not all fields will be polluting. Two things make a field a problem:

  1. a field that produces lots of pollution;
  2. a field that is easily connected to rivers, lakes, or groundwater.

To identify the locations that are a problem, we have developed SCIMAP, a joint project between Durham and Lancaster Universities. SCIMAP is supported by the U.K.’s Natural Environment Research Council, the Eden Rivers Trust, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency.

We hope that SCIMAP will be used to help decision-makers, including governments, non-governmental organisations, land owners etc. to work out where to prioritise activities that protect the water environment, and so make our water clean again.

On this web-site, we provide a basic description of the science base that we are developing, we illustrate the SCIMAP approach and how it works, and we provide material for further learning about the approach. You can also download the SCIMAP software.

 

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