Friends of the Dart

£15,000 awarded

Supporting the grassroots organisation, Friends of the Dart with their ambition to run a comprehensive, year-round bacterial and chemical testing programme at specifically identified sites along the River Dart.

Phase one of their water quality testing ran from May to December 2023 and involved collecting weekly water samples at several sites along the Dart, analysed for Ecoli, Enterrcocci and Total Coliforms.

Our grant will help them to implement phase two during 2024, increasing the range of bacterial and chemicals tested, and the number of testing sites – extending to 13 sites between the river source and sea at Dartmouth.

The testing programme will result in high quality accurate data that informs the local community, this in turn creates accountability and transparency adding weight and rigour to influencing investment in the updating of sewage infrastructure to prevent spillages – to stop the decline of the river’s health and enhance water quality – for the sake of the river’s ecology and the health of the communities around it.

Friends of the Dart are engaged with South West Water, working towards establishing a legally binding agreement outlining commitments to infrastructure updates that resolve combined sewage overflow spills in an expedient timescale, creating a model that enables data transparency and sharing, and a framework to allow other river communities to benefit from the groundwork that has been done.

The Friends of the Dart blueprint will offer a structured, collaborative and forward thinking approach for other community groups to follow in their endeavours to restore the health of their own local waterways.

Additional project objectives include: exploring how restorative aquaculture practices (such as growing mussels or oysters) could return to the Dart, whether for their ecosystem services and/or commercial opportunities; and engaging young people by holding community talks and events and demonstrating how to carry out gold standard water testing to promote long term change to the health of our rivers and communities.

The beautiful Dart near Staverton.