Case study:Healthy Rivers

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Location: 51° 39' 1", -3° 11' 44"
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Project overview

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Status Complete
Project web site
Themes Environmental flows and water resources, Fisheries, Habitat and biodiversity, Social benefits
Country Wales
Main contact forename Gail
Main contact surname Devine
Main contact user ID User:Hywel Abbott
Contact organisation Groundwork Wales
Contact organisation web site http://
Partner organisations
This is a parent project
encompassing the following
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Project summary

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The Healthy Rivers programme at Groundwork Wales carries out work on the rivers of the South East Wales with the aim of improving the river habitats so that they can support greater populations of native fish such as salmon, trout, eels and bull heads. The fish populations in many of the South East Wales rivers have depleted fish stocks due to pollution and man made modifications to the river channels that prevent fish accessing all the available river habitats. Due to depleted fish populations, many of the rivers in South East Wales are failing to achieve good status under the Water Framework Directive. The aim of the Healthy Rivers programme is to improve the river habitats so that they can support greater populations of fish by removing man made barriers to fish migration and creating new instream habitats. Healthy Rivers aims to engage local people in their local rivers by offering volunteer opportunities, community river care days and training opportunities, this instils a long term appreciation of the river habitats. Engaging local communities is essential for the conservation of the rivers, if they are engaged local people will appreciate the rivers and look after them in the future. Healthy Rivers also works with local primary schools to deliver salmon and eels in the classroom. This type of engagement with children is essential in ensuring that they understand the river habitats and look after them in the future.

Monitoring surveys and results

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Healthy Rivers works in close partnership with NRW to monitor the rivers to access the impact of fish passes and modifications. Healthy Rivers works with NRW to electro fish rivers to monitor the fish stocks and carry out walkover to record salmon and trout redds. In the winter of 2013 walkover surveys discovered the presence of salmon redds in the upper reaches of the River Sirhowy for the first time in 100 years as a direct result of removing and modifying weirs further downstream.

Fish passes are regularly monitored to ensure that they are working effectively and not becoming clogged up with floating debris. Each project is evaluated upon completion to assess what went well and what could be done better next time. This evaluation process is essential in improving process and projects in the future

We record monthly programme data in Programme Performance Measures which records: number of projects, area of land improved, number of volunteers, schools engaged and litter and waste removed from green spaces.

Groundwork Wales is Investors In People certified and working towards Investors In Volunteers which requires regular monitoring and evaluation of volunteer experiences and reviews of training achieved by volunteers and staff.

Lessons learnt

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The rivers of South East Wales have an industrial past and were considered dirty and polluted and were therefore abused. The heavy industry has now gone and the rivers have improved drastically, however local people don’t all ways see this and continue to abuse the rivers by dumping litter and rubbish as the think it won’t matter. Healthy Rivers has lead the campaign on this issue by promoting the river habitats and encourage people to change their behavior.

River restoration is physically demanding and requires volunteers to work hard but Healthy Rivers has been fortunate in finding a team of excellent and extremely hard working volunteers.  

The weather in South Wales is unpredictable and rain can disrupt river restoration projects or cause unexpected floods which wash away partially finished projects. However Healthy Rivers has always been able to overcome these difficulties. Working in the river does not always go to plan, the river is a dynamic system so Healthy Rivers staff have had to become efficient at over coming difficulties and problems.

Image gallery

Blockage removed from Ebbw River
Mill road fish pass ramp
Litter and waste removed from Nant yr Aber
Healthy Rivers recieves first prize at Tidy Wales Awards
Fish pass through Tredegar culvert

Catchment and subcatchment


WFD water body codes
WFD (national) typology
WFD water body name
Pre-project morphology
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Desired post project morphology
Heavily modified water body
National/international site designation
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Protected species present
Invasive species present
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River corridor land use
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Average bankfull channel depth (m)
Mean discharge category
Mean annual discharge (m3/s)
Average channel gradient category
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Average unit stream power (W/m2)

Project background

Reach length directly affected (m)
Project started 2015/04/01
Works started
Works completed 2017/03/31
Project completed
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Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design
Stakeholder engagement and communication
Works and works supervision
Post-project management and maintenance

Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure Improving river habitats to support diverse populations of fish, Fish depletion
Biology Fish, Fish: Abundance
Other reasons for the project


Structural measures
Bank/bed modifications Weir removal, Weir modification
Floodplain / River corridor Barrier removal, Habitat creation
Planform / Channel pattern
Non-structural measures
Management interventions Walkover surveys and water sample data collection, Monitoring strategy
Social measures (incl. engagement) Community involvement, Community Education


Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
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Biological quality elements

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Physico-chemical quality elements

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Any other monitoring, e.g. social, economic

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Monitoring documents

Additional documents and videos

Additional links and references

Link Description

Supplementary Information

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