East Suffolk Catchments Partnership

The East Suffolk Catchments Partnership

Formed in December 2013 the East Suffolk Catchments Partnership covers the river catchments of the Gipping, Deben, Alde, Thorpeness Hundred, Yox, Blyth and Lothingland Hundred.  The Partnership is a group building on the successful work and Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) pioneered across the UK by the Rivers Trust movement.  It draws together a group of engaged organisations and individuals far beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and includes members from the Woodland Trust, RSPB, Local Landowners, Suffolk County Council, Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust, Local Fishing Clubs, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Essex and Suffolk Water, Anglian Water, Suffolk Coastal District Council, FWAG, CSF, NFU, CLA, ESWAG, and local businesses including Adnams and Muntons Malt.

If you would like to contribute your time, expertise or support to this project please contact us.

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Background to the Project

These rivers are of significant importance being designated as “the Suffolk River Valleys” by Natural England, under environmentally sensitive areas. The rivers to the west of the A12 are in the clay lands area, being mostly cereals, and all tend to suffer from low flows and drought issues on a regular basis. Although agricultural surface water abstractions are common, it is a natural geographical feature that causes these rivers to be slow flowing, and frequently impounded by mill structures, causing ecological and water quality problems. Additional recharge flows from boreholes in the headwaters are frequently needed to maintain to oxygen levels in the summer months. To the East of the A12 the light soils are predominantly used for high value root crops and this former heath land is only farmed by the use of irrigation systems, supplied largely from ground water sources. The lighter soils area along the Suffolk coast is called the “sandlings“ and has an AONB designation along its entire length. The River Gipping however has more industry in its headwaters than the other catchments, as well as significant treated sewage effluent discharges from market towns. Again it is significantly affected by old mill head impoundments, and amenity use is considerable, with a public towpath along its entire length.

All the rivers in these catchments are not in good ecological condition under the Water Framework Directive criteria and work addressing diffuse pollution issues has been ongoing for the last five years under the Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative. Flooding during the winter months can also be significant in towns such as Debenham and Needham Market, and schemes to address these issues may well have parallel benefits for ecological and water quality status. Traditional water meadows still exist in many of these river valleys and have great ecological and landscape value. Into the estuaries we have nationally important areas for wildlife, as well as great landscapes, shellfish and commercial fishing areas. The importance of the amenity aspects of our estuaries for the local economy is significant, it being the major sailing areas for the East Coast of England.

In these rivers water quality has improved dramatically in the last four decades, with all dry weather flow discharges now being fully treated. However it is the more subtle issues that remain as the challenges into the future. These include diffuse pollution, biodiversity, flooding, water supply, and landscape enhancement.

Part of what the Catchment Partnership may wish to do is add their own knowledge to this summary and form their own views on what best describes the various river catchments within the ‘East Suffolk Rivers’ umbrella. It is certainly the case that the Partnership will develop a plan of action to tackle the issues around water quality, water availability as well as improving river habitats and fish, plant and invertebrate populations and making the most of the opportunities available. Exactly what and how will be developed as part of the Partnership’s work but it is likely that in due course new projects and support for existing initiatives will be generated through the Partnership.

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