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  • Catchment background

    Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership logoIn its entirety, the catchment drains over 2,800km² of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset, with the Bristol Avon River itself flowing through the dramatic Avon Gorge and into the Severn Estuary.

    There is a strong farming heritage, particularly in the upper reaches of the catchment, and the catchment landscape is important for wildlife, angling, navigation and recreation.

    The Bristol Avon and its tributaries flow through the towns of Malmesbury, Chippenham, Trowbridge, Frome and Radstock, and in its lower reaches, through the historic cities of Bath and Bristol. The catchment is home to more than one million people.

    Arable landscape - Dave Jones    Severn estuary - Dave Jones      

    The map below shows the different land cover types across the catchment

    Land cover map

    Land cover map

    The challenges

    The following water based issues have been identified as the highest priorities for the partnership:

    High phosphate levels associated with:

    • treated sewage discharges and sewage overflows
    • urban diffuse pollution including misconnections
    • agricultural/sediment run-off.

    High sediment loading associated with:

    •  rapid run-off from agricultural land.

    Flooding associated with rapid run-off from:

    • compacted rural land
    • urban hard surfaces.

    Low river flows associated with:

    • abstraction for water supply
    • poor upstream water retention and aquifer recharge.

    Reduced natural habitat and wildlife associated with:

    • poor riparian habitat
    • highly modified channels
    • in-stream barriers to prevent fish migrating
    • increase of Invasive non-native species.

    Climate change

    • An overarching pressure as more extreme weather may result in more flooding and droughts within the catchment.

    Flooding - Dave Jones   Wildlife - Dave Jones  

    The need to act now

    The government aims to ensure all waterbodies in England meet Good Ecological Status by 2027. Any waterbody that does not meet good ecological status is classified as failing under the European Union’s Water Framework Directive.

    In the Bristol Avon Catchment:

    • only 24% of the catchment is classified as having ‘good ecological status’. Although this is typical of other catchments in the UK, it demonstrates the scale of the challenge to meet the Water Framework Directive targets
    • 76% fail to meet the targets due to factors including physical modification, phosphate levels, sediment load and low fish populations
    • some landowners are losing valuable topsoil, nutrients and pesticides due to erosion, run-off or leaching; sometimes linked to poor soil structure and compaction
    • heavy rainfall running off rural and urban areas causes surface water and river flooding in specific locations. Tidal flooding continues to be a threat in the lower reaches of the catchment.

    The map below shows the overall Water Framework Directive status of the waterbodies within the Bristol Avon Catchment.

    Water Framework Directive overall status map

    Water Framework Directive overall status map     

    Contact us

    To contact the catchment coordinator for the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership please email: 

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