Thames River Watch: Citizen science in action

Organisation: Thames21

Location: London

Type: Case Studies & Projects

Link: Visit Website

This citizen science project seeks to engage community groups, individuals, schools and riverside businesses along the tidal Thames from Teddington to the Thames Estuary.

The project aims to raise awareness of the environmental issues that the river faces and enable people to provide pro-active support and involvement in improving the health of the tidal Thames. It supports the Your Tidal Thames project which is part of the Catchment Based Approach to delivering the Water Framework Directive through active engagement of the local community.

The health of the tidal Thames is widely misunderstood. Some people see it as a ‘dirty old river’ – dead, polluted and to be ignored as much as possible. This perception is hard to overcome when floating litter persists and raw sewage flows into the water during heavy rain events. Some believe that the estuary is dirty because it’s brown instead of blue. However other people see the tidal Thames as a system that has fully recovered over the last 40 years and is now clean, an idea reinforced by media reports when the Thames won the International Theiss River Prize in 2010. The reality is somewhere in between. Thames River Watch seeks to tackle the challenge of helping Londoners better understand the tidal Thames.


The three areas that the project focuses on are monitoring water quality, litter and invasive non-native species. Thames River Watch delivers training to equip volunteers with skills to carry out regular monitoring of these areas – you can see all the results of the citizen science monitoring on the Thames21 website. The project also delivers clean-up and litter monitoring events which offer volunteers a one-off opportunity to engage in the project. The education work of Thames River Watch with schools focuses on developing schools as ‘Thames Observatories’ – which record regular observations of their local stretch of the Thames.

Each year Thames River Watch organises the Big Count event – which aims to examine the data collated through the project and seeks to raise the profile of the current state of the river Thames

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