3 Rivers

The 3 Rivers project worked on three waterbodies in the Tamar Catchment; the Lumburn, Lower Tavy and Walkham. The project provided farm advice, small grants to farms, and information to homes which are not on mains drainage, with the aim of reducing diffuse pollution.



Reduce diffuse pollution from rural land use in the Lumburn, Lower Tavy and Walkham catchments.


Reduce diffuse pollution from urban land use.


Prevent deterioration or contribute to the achievement of protected area objectives.

The Challenge

The catchments of the 3Rivers waterbodies are dominated by agricultural land. In these catchments, multiple diffuse sources of pollution, particularly phosphate enrichment, are contributing to WFD status failures.

These sources of pollution may originate from farming practices, farmyards or rural properties. Pollution may also be attached to soil particles, which have become eroded and washed into nearby streams. In addition, some rural communities are experiencing growth. Old drainage infrastructure may not be able to cope with this growing pressure, resulting in domestic diffuse pollution from treatment works and individual septic tanks.

The enrichment and sedimentation of watercourses leads to smothering of riverbed substrates, increased algal growth, low diversity and abundance of plants and wildlife, and reduced oxygen levels. Diffuse input from both animal and human sources increases the risk of bacterial loadings, which is a health and welfare issue for the public. This is especially concerning in areas regularly used for recreation. It also affects connected habitats, for example, negatively affecting the robustness and function of estuarine habitats further downstream.

Timeframe: April 2015 – March 2016

Funding: £44,333

Funder: CPAF grant

Target Waterbodies:

  • Lamburn
  • Lower Tavy
  • Walkham


  • Westcountry Rivers Trust
  • Environment Agency
  • Woodland Trust
  • Tamar Valley AONB
  • Devon Wildlife Trust
  • South West Water
  • University of Plymouth
  • Tavy, Walkham and Plym Fishing Club
  • Dartmoor National Park Authority

The Solution

Identifying target areas

To ensure the project was evidence-led and efficient, project partners worked together to identify key target areas for the delivery of farm advice, agricultural demonstration events and non-mains drainage awareness campaigns. Further to this, a tiered monitoring program was undertaken to collect baseline data, provide an overview of the catchment characteristics and to inform more detailed surveys. Data interrogation then helped identify non-mains drainage hotspots and priority areas for woodland creation.

Engaging people

Local volunteers contributed significantly to the identification of issues and target areas. Members of the Tavy, Walkham and Plym Fishing Club were trained in walkover techniques, while volunteers from the Tamar Valley AONB were trained to assess obstacles to fish migration.

Targeted farm visits were undertaken to provide best practice advice and, where appropriate, this was supported by a small grant scheme to deliver small-scale interventions. Farmer focused awareness events took place at key locations including the Tavistock Livestock Market, which brought forward expressions of interest in the project which could then be followed up. Demonstration events provided opportunities to raise awareness of specific issues, for example, in partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust, a demonstration of soil de-compaction equipment was combined with advice on soil assessment and management.

To tackle urban stressors, a range of information was collated and disseminated regarding non-mains drainage regulations and best practice, misconnections, the disposal of fats, oils and grease, and reducing water use. A non-mains drainage drop-in session was held, and parish councils, estate agents and caravan site managers were contacted to help pass on information on these issues. A poster campaign highlighted the issue at riverside hotspots.

Farms Visited

Community Groups Involved

Demonstrations at Agricultural Events

Volunteers Involved

Farm Grants, Totalling £5230

Km of River Walkover Surveys

Non-mains Drainage Properties Engaged

Meters of Stock-proof Fencing

Lessons Learnt

Through this project, WRT has undertaken meaningful work in the Tavy operational catchment for the first time. This has allowed engagement with a new and wide group of users including fisheries interests, community groups, local authorities and landowners. This has widened the number and diversity of partners in the Catchment Partnership and has linked new partners with other partnership projects of interest, such as the Tamar Fisheries Forum.

Engaging a new group of stakeholders within the relatively short project timeframe was found to take time, perseverance and a little good fortune!

Attending events, such as the Livestock Market, worked reasonably well in establishing first contact, but needs to be backed up by wet weather drive arounds and door knocking to further engage with landowners.

Home owners were found to be far harder to engage with regarding misconnected and non-mains foul drainage. As the information on non-mains drainage hotspots became clearer, door knocking in these areas was found to be an effective way to engage with this group.

The target of creating 5ha of woodland proved difficult. It appeared that the grants on offer may not be sufficiently appealing to encourage landowners to take part. Half a hectare was planted by project partner South West Water, and towards the end of the project three other landowners showed an interest in woodland creation and were provided with relevant information. However, this may be an issue which needs further investigation or a different approach in future.

This short-term project has identified several other areas which require further investigation in the future. These include the identification of sources of temporal white discolouration on the Tavy, engagement with large dairy farms, and further work on non-mains drainage, misconnections, fish passage issues and identification of sources of phosphate.

Lessons for the Catchment Partnership

The project has improved understanding and established stronger links with the Tavy catchment and its stakeholders, which needs to be built upon to maintain these newly establish links. Engagement with all of the sub-catchments is vital to fully understanding the issues which need tackling in, and therefore guiding the management of, the whole Tamar Catchment.

Suggest a project!

We’re always looking for new ideas from our partners. Take a look through our story map for inspiration, and if you have an idea for a project send us a message!