East Devon Catchment Partnership

East Devon | South West

Contact Information

Catchment Host

Devon Wildlife Trust & Westcountry Rivers Trust


Ed Parr Ferris


direct 01392 260868 | mobile 07572 687573 | switchboard 01392 279244




Ed Parr Ferris
Conservation Manager
Devon Wildlife Trust| Cricklepit Mill| Commercial Road| Exeter| EX2 4AB
direct 01392 260868 | mobile 07572 687573 | switchboard 01392 279244

Catchment Website

Our catchment

The East Devon catchment has a varied landscape and stretches from Exmoor and the Blackdown Hills in the north to Exmouth and the Jurassic coast and west Dorset.

At approximately 750 sq.km, the East Devon catchment drains the rivers Exe, Otter, Sid, Axe and Lim.

Only 7% of the catchment is developed, compared to the national average of 16%. East Devon is predominantly agricultural, with lowland cattle and sheep farms constituting 38% of the farming practice. The population of the catchment includes the main urban areas of Exeter, Crediton, Tiverton and Cullompton. Exeter, the county town of Devon, has a population of 119,600.

The catchment contains one National Park and three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) covering 66% of the catchment.

East Devon’s varied landscape provides ecologically important habitat, with:

  • 4 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
  • 1 Special Protected Area (SPA)
  • 1 National Nature Reserve (NNR) and
  • 29 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

There are 103 river water bodies in the catchment as well as 4 lakes, 4 estuaries, 10 groundwater bodies and coastal waters to the south.

There are areas in the catchment where the benefits of the water environment is recognised and are designated as protected areas. These areas can be designated as protected for several reasons, whether they are important habitats, bathing waters or areas around drinking sources.

Our water and rivers

Rivers, groundwater and coastal waters in East Devon are used for drinking water, recreation and they should also support healthy fisheries and wildlife.

There are a number of water problems affecting the Rivers Axe, Otter and Clyst mainly related to manures, slurry and soil entering the river.

There are also water quality problems related to sewage and runoff from urban areas. However, the pressure from manure and slurry from farming is greater.

The rivers Otter and Sid do not support a salmon population due to historical barriers affecting fish migration. The River Clyst is not a natural salmon river, however water quality is poor in this river affecting Water Framework Directive objectives to protect fish such as trout.

Our bathing waters

Coastal waters in East Devon meet Bathing Water Directive standards for bacteria. However, bathing waters at Budleigh Salterton and Seaton are subject to short term pollution.

This short term pollution is caused when heavy rainfall washes faecal material into the sea from livestock, sewage and urban drainage via rivers. These waters have had warnings advising against swimming in recent years.

In 2009 30% of water bodies in the East Devon catchment where classified at good ecological status or better under the Water Framework Directive.

The Environment Agency has investigated the possible reasons for failure and found that diffuse pollution from agricultural sources account for 54% of the water bodies not achieving good status. Barriers to migratory fish account for 23%.

Our soils and nutrients

Our topography and the nature of our soils presents challenges for land management and water quality. Our rivers are monitored regularly to meet standards set out in the Water Framework Directive.

Non-compliance with objectives on all rivers is caused by nutrient enrichment affecting phosphate levels, algae and aquatic plants.

Parts of the River Axe are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). At the moment the river is in an ‘Unfavourable Declining’ condition due to siltation and nutrient enrichment, which is affecting the plant and animal communities.

Salmon are particularly sensitive to sediment pollution that affects the quality of spawning habitat. The salmon population of the River Axe declined through the 1970s and 1980s to the extent where no salmon were recorded in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Most of the adult salmon returning to the Axe at present are probably derived from introduced hatchery-reared fish as part of rehabilitation work.

Our communities

The East Devon Catchment Partnership, established in 2014 under the Catchment Based Approach programme, has the following objectives:

To deliver positive and sustained outcomes for the water environment by promoting a better understanding of the environment at a local level; and

To encourage local collaboration and more transparent decision-making when both planning and delivering activities to improve the water environment.

We will adopt this approach to promote a platform for engagement, discussion and decisions of much wider benefits; including tackling diffuse agricultural and urban pollution, and widespread, historical alterations to the natural form of channels.

Community events will be held to enable engagement and delivery with communities across the catchment.

Working in partnership

The Partnership is hosted by Devon Wildlife Trust and
is made up of the following partners:

Blackdown Hills AONB Partnership

Clinton Devon Estates

Devon Wildlife Trust

East Devon AONB Partnership

East Devon District Council

Environment Agency

Exe Estuary Management Partnership

Exmoor Mires Partnership

Exmoor National Park


National Trust

Natural England

South West Water

Westcountry Rivers Trust



Other key partners

Otter Valley Association, Sid Vale Association, Axe Vale and District Conservation Society, Axe Vale Rivers Association

County, City, District, Town and Parish Councils


Tale Valley Trust

Our work

The Partnership has produced a range of reports and surveys on the key characteristics and environmental opportunities of the catchment, specific events, projects and activities.

East Devon Catchment Partnership Evidence Review

An initial report detailing the context of our catchment and identifying opportunities for future work.

Our Action Plan outlines our key principles, goals, how we will engage and our priorities for delivery.

The plan also contains a summary of our priorities and actions/targets.

East Devon Catchment Partnership Community Conference 2018

Slide presentation from our conference, hosted at Deer Park Country House.

Projects and initiatives

A wide range of projects and initiatives have been – and are being – delivered and developed through Catchment partners, from soils management to natural flood management. A selection of these projects and related findings are detailed in the reports/resources listed below.

Soils & Natural Flood Management

A guide for land managers and advisors in Devon and Cornwall.

East Devon Diffuse Pollution Project Final Report

Runoff from maize can cause serious diffuse pollution and contribute to localised flooding.

The East Devon Diffuse Pollution project provided a ‘snapshot’ of the impact of maize growing in East Devon.

Ottery St Mary Natural Flood Management Project

Hydrological Monitoring and End of Project Reports (2021) from the Ottery St Mary NFM Project;
working to reduce the risk of flooding to properties in Ottery St. Mary and benefit wildlife in the catchment.

Naturalising Exeter’s Waterways – Initial Feasibility Report

This study focuses on the Northbrook, which rises in farmland above Exeter as the Mincinglake Stream
and flows for a total of 7.6km through Exeter before joining the River Exe.

Project Links

Website links to projects operating within the East Devon Catchment:


Connecting the Culm



River Otter Beaver Trial



Lower Otter Restoration Project



Upstream Thinking

Upstream Thinking – South West Water

Upstream Thinking – Westcountry Rivers Trust

Upstream Thinking – Devon Wildlife Trust



Corry & Coly NFM



Clyst Valley Regional Park



Exmoor Mires Partnership

Exmoor Mires Partnership – South West Water

Exmoor Mires Partnership – Exmoor National Park


Exmoor Non-Native Invasive Species Project


Translate »