There are significant benefits to partnership working: it can lead to extra funding, bring in expertise and generate more buy in from people. Growing a partnership from scratch is a significant challenge and one that requires individuals skilled in a range of engagement techniques. WaterLIFE worked in three UK catchments – the Soar, Camlad and Tamar – to increase skills and resources across the partnerships in these areas so they are better equipped to improve the health of the water environment.

WaterLIFE has produced a how to guide for catchment partnerships designed to increase capacity. This guide includes the essential ingredients to getting a partnership started, expanding a partnership, case studies to showcase best practice and successes, and also points to the tools available to partnerships.

The guide highlights three essential steps:

  • Getting started.
  • Building momentum.
  • Create an identity and build an audience.


Getting Started

Strong, effective and sustainable partnership working at the catchment scale requires collaboration across a broad and diverse range of organisations, including environmental NGOs, businesses, local government, water companies, and local communities. Achieving this diversity enables partnerships to address a wide range of issues across the full breadth of land and water management, and increase the likelihood of securing funding.

It is important to understand what motivates people to engage with the water environment. WaterLIFE carried out research to explore the barriers stopping people getting involved, and what opportunities exist that groups, such as catchment partnerships, could take advantage of. We designed five ‘top tips’ to help organisations, such as catchment partnerships, engage with individuals and communities:

  • Understand your community
  • Develop a varied offer
  • Get the message right
  • Keep it local
  • Communication, communication, communication

full version of this report is also available.



Building Momentum

Catchment partnerships can be significantly empowered through developing the capacity and expertise to capture their own environmental datasets. Such datasets can be derived from a range of environmental monitoring including water quality and biological parameters, invasive species, riparian habitat, barriers to fish migration, wet weather walkover surveys to identify pollution sources, monitoring of outfalls, identification of misconnections and many more.

Citizen Science enables communities to gather data about what’s happening in their local area and contribute to a better understanding of river, and catchment, health. A growing recognition of the importance of citizen science reflects the reality that monitoring by regulatory authorities will always be limited to some extent in its temporal and spatial resolution, and especially so in times of resource constraints.

The Citizen Science and Volunteer Monitoring Resource Pack is designed to support partnerships in their work to protect and enhance the water environment by sharing a collection of links, tools, contacts and case studies.


citizen science

The Westcountry Rivers Trust has developed a “Tamar CSI” initiative for Citizen Science Investigations.

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Enhancing the ability of community groups to get involved with on the ground projects, as well as influencing decision-making, means that change is not only accelerated but will be longer lasting. We have produced some helpful ‘top tips’ to help catchment partnerships identify the opportunities to work with community groups to increase their capacity, influence and impact.

The full report is also available.


Participatory research was undertaken in two of the WaterLIFE demonstration catchments (the Soar and Camlad) to identify opportunities and barriers within river basin management to: the implementation of Paid Ecosystem Service (PES) Schemes; and the engagement of Supply Chain Stakeholders. A research report was produced, which also incorporates work in the Tamar catchment on engaging local businesses with local water issues.



In many catchments, there are often specialist groups with very particular and focused interests in the freshwater environment who can be very valuable contributors to the provision of information that can be used to develop a catchment plan.  In the Tamar, a specialist Fisheries Forum was convened, with a focus on the health of Tamar fisheries, the issues they face, and opportunities to improve them.

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tamar fisheries forum

Create an Identity and Build an Audience

Catchment partnerships typically bring together a core group of organisations, businesses and interest groups that have a clear and direct connection to, and interest in, the freshwater environment. They usually include local environmental NGOs such as Rivers Trusts & Wildlife Trusts; representatives from relevant government bodies such as the Environment Agency and Natural England, National Parks and AONBs; the water company; and often specialist local interest groups such as Angling Associations.

Uniting the core partnership under a common identity and public facing brand can help provide the hook with which to attract and engage a wider group of ‘non-usual’ businesses and civil society groups or organisations.

In the summer of 2015, Westcountry Rivers Trust developed and delivered a campaign to celebrate the River Tamar, engaging and inspiring the local community to take action to protect and improve their river. The aim of the campaign was to raise awareness of the activities of the Tamar Catchment Partnership, gain public support and engage new businesses. The campaign was designed to help communities understand the value of the River Tamar from an ecological, sociological and recreational standpoint, while also appealing to local businesses and encouraging them to get involved. The campaign culminated in the My Tamar Festival.

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