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Water Resources

River Torridge (Devon Wildlife Trust)Water and land management

The river Torridge stretches 48 miles across North Devon in a predominantly rural area, characterised by steep wooded valleys and a mixture of pastoral and arable farming. Water quality of the Torridge has suffered over the years, largely as a result of agricultural intensification such as increased use of fertilizers and changing farming practices, as well as other contributory factors.

Many stretches of the Torridge are failing to meet water quality standards. Under the EU’s Water Framework Directive, each tributary of the Torridge, from the headwaters to the estuary, has a target to achieve at least 'good status'; currently many stretches of the river are failing to meet these required standards. The NIA is working directly with farmers and landowners within the Torridge catchment to help address agricultural issues which directly contribute to water pollution.

The role of agriculture

Farming can impact on water quality in a number of ways. The fragile soils that are found across large areas of the South West are easily degraded as a result of inappropriate management, causing local flooding, mud on roads, and damage to property. Pollution of our water environment also results as sediment, manure, fertilisers and pesticides enter our rivers, estuaries and groundwater causing ecological impacts and affecting the quality of water supplies.

Farmers face considerable pressures as small businesses, especially with ever more unpredictable weather patterns and rising costs, but they can make a major contribution to the river basin district in terms of the economy, food security, landscape, water quality and water storage, biodiversity and recreation.

How the NIA can help


The NIA provides advice and assistance on water resource protection through the following:

  • Use of agri-environment scheme options to protect watercourses and reduce risk of erosion
  • Applying for capital grant funding such as Catchment Sensitive Farming and the Farming & Forestry Improvement Scheme; these enable farmers to make improvements to their farming systems and comply with current legislation as well as reduce the risk of pollution
  • Detailed yard infrastructure visits to address clean/dirty water separation, rainwater harvesting, roofing livestock areas, improved drainage and slurry/farm yard manure management
  • Nutrient planning advice with regard to organic and non-organic fertilisers, and optimising on-farm resources.
  • Help with soil management planning and soil protection reviews, identifying areas at risk of erosion and maintaining soil conditions
  • Free loan of a range of soil aerators designed to relieve compaction and reduce run off, while improving water and air filtration within soils and improved nutrient cycling
  • Resource protection workshops for farmers and landowners
  • Volunteer days to help remove invasive waterside species such as Himalayan Balsam.


Free loan of soil aerators

We have three soil aerators which we loan to farmers free of charge to reduce and relieve soil compaction, helping water to infiltrate and reduce run off. They also promote better grass growth and uptake of nutrients. The equipment we have available for use: 

McConnell Grassland Shakerator, 3m with roller

Browns Slitmaster

Kockerling Grasmaster harrow

Each machine works at a different level of compaction and achieves different results. If you would like further information on the equipment please contact Louise Davis.


The Freshwater Pearl Mussel

The NIA has an action plan to help protect the Freshwater Pearl Mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera), which is classified as endangered in the UK, and is one of the longest lived invertebrates known, living for up to 100 years. Its numbers have declined rapidly over the last 50 years due to over-collection, pollution and a fall in fish numbers. The Torridge hosts one of the last remaining populations of this mollusc but these mussels have not bred since the 1960s because of a combination of nutrients and soil run-off into rivers. The NIA is working to restore stretches of river for existing populations of the mussel, as well as research opportunities to host an ‘ark’ site within the Torridge catchment to encourage the species to breed.


Riverfly Partnership

In 2014 the NIA set up a river monitoring network across the Torridge catchment, where regular volunteers can survey their stretch of river and help to monitor water quality. For more information on this project please click here.