A Catchment Based Approach to the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment

LogosA Water Care Partnership has been set up  in order to manage and improve the water environment in the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment.

Much of the below information has been kindly provided by our colleague Jennifer Thomas, who started a couple of months ago as Cambridgeshire ACRE’s Water Catchment Officer:


The catchment based approach

Improving ecosystems at the river catchment scale is at the heart of the Government’s drive towards achieving long-term improvements in the water environment and delivering our targets under the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Central to this approach is the engagement of local stakeholders to establish common ownership of problems and their solutions, building partnerships to implement actions at the local level.

In Spring 2013, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) launched the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA). Following this, catchment partnerships have been set up  covering the whole country: 87 catchments have been set up across England including 6 cross border partnerships covered by 111 different partnerships (see map below).

WFD Water Catchment Areas; note: no 55 is the Old Bedford and Middle Level Catchment. Source: http://ccmhub.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/pb13934-water-environment-catchment-based-approach.pdf

The Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment

The Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment (see map below) is a predominantly rural catchment, located in the Cambridgeshire Fens. The partnership draws together a variety of key stakeholders from within the catchment; some of the key partners include the Environment Agency, Natural England, National Farmers Union, Angling Trust, Lower Ouse and Fenland Fisheries Consultative Association (LOFFCA), Internal Drainage Boards and RSPB.

Cambridgeshire ACRE is the host for the Old Bedford and Middle Level Catchment partnership; along with local stakeholders and communities Cambridgeshire ACRE will develop a plan for the improvement of the local water environment.


Focus on Water Quality Issues

Some water bodies in the catchment are failing to meet the required standard. There are potentially many reasons for these failures with inputs to the catchment coming from many sources including sewage treatment works, agriculture, industry, roads and development. There are other pressures placed on the catchment from water abstraction, climate change, peat erosion and invasive species.

Some of the main issues of the Old Bedford and Middle Level catchment area include point source pollution and rural diffuse pollution (see map below); these affect the water quality and can lead to eutrophication. There are also problems relating to dissolved oxygen due to the naturally slow flowing fenland rivers: low oxygen levels could, for instance, lead to fish kills as seen in the summer of 2012 on the Ouse Washes.

Reasons for failureThe partnership is in its early stages and is currently working on reviewing documentation that has been provided by the Environment Agency and determining how this combines with local knowledge and priorities.

The partnership aims to communicate with communities at a very local scale, inviting them to get involved with the agencies to help improve the water environment in the catchment.

Links with the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership

There are several clear links between the work of the OWLP partnership and that of the Old Bedford and Middle Level Catchment Partnership; we are, for instance, already:

  • Exchanging information about water quality, water level and conservation management;
  • Exchanging contacts for organisations, community groups and individuals who would be of use to both partnerships;
  • Mutual promotion of each other’s work (hence this blog post as well);
  • Working with partners on finding landscape-scale and local solutions to the issues identified.


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This entry was posted in Delivery Phase, Partnership, Theme 1-Water Everywhere, Theme 5-Future Heritage and tagged , , , , by markatousewasheslps. Bookmark the permalink.

About markatousewasheslps

I am currently coordinating a partnership-led bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (for a circa £600K Heritage Grant bid) focusing on strengthening the unique yet vulnerable natural heritage in the Cambridgeshire Fens surrounding the Old west River, the new 'New Life on the Old West' project. Until recently I was the Programme Manager for the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership scheme, leading on the 1-year development and 3-year delivery phases of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant-aided Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership (OWLP) scheme (from Dec 2012 until March 2017), on behalf of and in close cooperation with a wide range of local, regional and national partner organisations. The Ouse Washes LP's portfolio of 51 projects have focused on: conservation works to historic and natural environmental assets; improving community participation & engagement with the landscape and its heritage; increasing access and learning opportunities; and providing more opportunities for training in traditional land management skills. The overall aim has been to leave a long-term legacy for this fascinating and unique landscape, in the process creating tangible improvements to social, economic and environmental aspects of this landscape, its heritage and communities.