Adapting to Changing Catchments

Adapting to Changing Catchments

How will future changes in catchments impact upon our water supply systems?  Can we advance current capabilities in catchment monitoring and modelling to characterise treatability of different source water and define tailored solutions that are resilient to climate, land use and pollution changes?


Watch the new video of the catchment team's research here

Understanding how surface water catchments are likely to respond to climate change is key to predicting what treatment technologies will be needed in the future to deliver safe and affordable drinking water. Our research looks at how different types of catchments across upland and lowland systems and different land-uses within catchments currently influence natural organic matter (NOM) in raw water quality and how these relationships might change in future.  We will be looking at peatland and non-peatland (urban, agriculture, forestry) NOM sources. By focusing on case study specific catchments (e.g. Exe and Loddon rivers) we will use state of the art scanning UV-Vis sensors to assess water quality and its associated treatability. Water will be scanned at a high frequency and at increasing catchment scales as water moves from headwaters to the drinking water abstraction point(s).


Bringing knowledge gained from this research together will allow the water industry to better optimise their current operations. This will also provide a way for the industry to assess how their catchments are likely to change and provide possible solutions to how this can be managed.

The research team is following the delivery plan detailed below:



  • Install UV-Vis sensors in the Exe catchment to assess how sources of water colour vary with hydrological conditions at different catchment scales (upland peatland to lowland drinking water abstraction points).
  • Perform a monthly catchment survey looking at the different areas (peatland, woodland, agricultural, urban) and their potential to contribute colour.  
  • Review existing water company data available for the Exe and Loddon.


  • Install UV-Vis sensors to the Loddon to evaluate the downstream impact of NOM on a lowland river with more influence fromrban areas and sewage effluent without peatland influence.


  • Ongoing catchment monitoring in the Exe and Loddon. 
  • Identify key NOM sources within each catchment and evaluate their treatability. 
  • Evaluate long-term high frequency UV-Vis data across different catchment scales and proxy indicators of treatability.
  • Modelling of data to suggest how climate change will affect colour mobilisation from the catchment in the future.

Project Team and Key Partners

Professor Nigel Graham (Research Leader) (

Dr Joanna Clark (Loddon Lead) (

Professor Richard Brazier (Exe Lead) (

Dr Jonny Ritson (PDRA in Environmental Engineering) (

Mike Bell (PDRA in Environmental Monitoring) (

Dr Charlotte Hawkins (

Phiala Mehring (


South West Water

Affinity Water

Environment Agency

Hampshire & Isle of Weight Wildlife Trust



How can people get involved?

There are numerous ways to get involved in this area of research, including:

  • Join the Twenty-65 thought leadership club
  • Share information about previous work, including reports, papers and data (if available) to help us evaluate catchment interventions for raw water quality
  • Work with us to develop additional collaborative projects