Catchment Partnership Bristol Avon

Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership

Bristol Avon catchment partnership

About the partnership

The Bristol Avon catchment partnership (BACP) comprises a range of organisations, groups, authorities and individuals dedicated to working together to improve the water environment and provide wider benefits for people and nature at a catchment scale - known as a catchment based approach (CaBA)

Formed in 2012 with support of central government, the partnership has produced a catchment plan to work towards achieving a better water environment for all. 

The Bristol Avon catchment encompasses the North Somerset coastal streams and the Lower Severn Vale sub catchments.

Bristol Avon Catchment area map
This map shows the catchment area

In 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 north 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 Bath and Bristol. The catchment is home to more than one million people. The Bristol Avon catchment also encompasses the North Somerset coastal streams and the Lower Severn Vale sub catchments.

The water environment

The water environment includes all rivers, streams and wetlands that drain within the catchment landscape. It also includes all the different types of landscape that we build on, cultivate and modify; all of these human interventions have an impact on the water cycle and can, for example, lead to an increased risk of pollution leaching in to our watercourses and ground water aquifers.

River landscape
The water environment includes all rivers, streams and wetlands that drain within the catchment landscape.

Why do we need to work in partnership?

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.

These are just some of the water-based challenges within the Bristol Avon catchment that can be addressed more effectively by working together:

Only 11% 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.

89% 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.

What is the Bristol Avon catchment partnership?

BACP is one of over 100 catchment partnerships across England to support the CaBA which embeds collaborative working at a river catchment scale to deliver cross-cutting improvements to our water environments.

BACP is supported by a steering group and there are also various project task groups who meet regularly to develop and deliver partnership projects from across the catchment. In 2018/19 the BACP is being co-hosted by Wessex Water and the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART).

The governance structure of BACP is currently being updated - a new terms of reference document will be available shortly.

To find out more email

BACP steering group

The BACP steering group meets quarterly to discuss partnership projects and issues around the catchment and consists of 14 organisations:

  • Avon Wildlife Trust
  • Bath & North East Somerset Council
  • Bristol Avon Rivers Trust
  • Bristol City Council
  • Bristol Water
  • Environment Agency
  • Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group – South West
  • Natural England
  • North Somerset Council
  • South Gloucestershire Council
  • West of England Rural Network
  • Wessex Water
  • Wiltshire Council
  • Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
Flowers in meadow, credit Dave Jones
The BACP steering group consists of 14 organisations

BACP goals

The partnership has agreed to support projects that help to deliver outcomes relating to our seven goals:

1.    Improve public understanding about the value and services provided to society and the local economy by the river catchment and its wildlife.

2.    Improve water and flood risk management to reduce and slow run-off from rural and urban land, to increase water capture and to increase aquifer recharge.

3.    Improve land management and sustainable agriculture to reduce soil erosion and nutrient and pesticide loss, and to provide better links between habitats for wildlife.

4.    Improve waste water management to reduce nutrients in watercourses from public and private waste water.

5.    Improve river management to increase connectivity between habitats, reduce barriers to fish migration.

6.    Improve recreational management to increase access and recreational use of water and the wider environment, delivering wide ranging physical and mental health benefits.

7.    Improve investment opportunities for partnership-led projects that deliver multiple benefits within the catchment.

You can find more information about our goals and our agreed actions in our catchment plan.

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


Associated with:

  • 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

Associated with:

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

Questions and queries

If you have any questions about the Bristol Avon Catchment Partnership, please email

Bristol avon catchment partnership

Catchment partnership fund


Read the partnership's latest news and events

Bristol avon catchment partnership

Reports and key information