The Oxford River Project, a campaign to end sewage pollution in the upper Thames, are launching an investigation tomorrow (18 June) to assess whether the city could host the UK’s second ever designated river bathing water location.
Oxford WaterBlitz will see trained volunteers study the bacterial water quality at 18 locations along the River Thames to establish a snapshot of the levels of pollution from sewage, agriculture, and other domestic or commercial sources – the first time all sites in Oxford will be tested in one day.
The results will be then processed by data scientists from environmental charity The Rivers Trust in Thames Water Laboratories.
Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust, said: “Following the science is absolutely crucial if we’re going to restore our rivers, and the overall environment, to good health, so it is very exciting to be engaging the public in this landmark citizen science initiative. We’re very hopeful that there will be many more projects like this across the country, so our waterways can thrive again for people and wildlife.”
Last year, more than 5,000 residents signed a petition which was supported by Oxford City Council calling for a designated bathing water area in Oxford, regular testing for bacteria, alerts of raw sewage spills, and improvements to the wastewater system.
If the application is successful, the public will be able to access real-time water quality data throughout the official outdoor bathing season, which runs from May to September.
In April, Thames Water agreed to issue alerts when sewage discharges into the mid-Thames occur in support of the bathing water application. It is hoped that the designation would spur a wider clean-up of the Thames in the Oxford region.
Sarah Bentley, Thames Water CEO, said: “Our aim will always be to try and do the right thing for our rivers and for the communities who love and value them. We’re pleased to be working with local partners such as Thames21 and actively listening to our customers, who have clearly told us to do more to protect these incredible environments.
“We have substantial planned investment in our local sewer network and will also be upgrading sewage treatment works, including for example a major expansion at Witney in Oxfordshire.”