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Poole Harbour catchment initiative

The Dorset Catchment Partnerships have recently responded to the Environment Agency's Challenges and Choices consultation. Our response reflects a range of views from across the partnership, and partners were encouraged to submit their own responses in addition. You can read the Catchment Partnership's response here.


During 2012 the Poole Harbour catchment initiative (PHCI) was one of the first pilots in England to trial the catchment based approach. This involved each pilot developing a stakeholder engagement process to identify the key issues and solutions in their catchment.

During the pilot stage, the PHCI was originally known as the Frome & Piddle catchment initiative but this name was changed in May 2013 when the boundary of the catchment was extended to incorporate all rivers and streams that drain into Poole Harbour.

The PHCI aims to achieve:

  • sustainable farming, development, water use and sewage treatment that supports healthy rivers and groundwater in the Poole Harbour catchment
  • recognition of the ecosystem services that the catchment can provide and an adequate payment to those that manage the land to provide these services
  • improvement to biodiversity habitats both in the form of naturally functioning rivers, floodplains and wetlands and appropriately located woodland and low-input grassland
  • national environmental standards for the benefit of wildlife, users of these waters, and Poole Harbour.

Key issues

There are many challenges facing the water environment, to make a real difference there needs to be an integrated approach to sharing knowledge and delivering improvements that will protect the water, land and people in the long term.

Combining our efforts in a strategic manner and making decisions based on a good evidence will help us to make progress and protect our catchment for future generations.

The catchment partnership has jointly identified five key issues that are relevant to the Poole Harbour Catchment:

Nitrogen and phosphorus

High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways is undesirable because it encourages excessive growth of algae which smothers native plants and reduces oxygen levels in the water, which can affect fish.


 When washed off land in excess it can be harmful to fish, invertebrates and aquatic plants in the rivers. It can also bring more phosphorus into the river.

Historic channel and habitat alterations

 Putting weirs and barriers across the river can prevent fish migration. Changing the natural path of a river. By widening, straightening and deepening can cause a multitude of problems with flooding and flow.

Water quantity

 Low flows can affect the ecology and the aesthetics of a river, high flows increase the risk of flooding.

What do we do?

In 2013 the UK Government committed to supporting the catchment based approach (CaBA). All catchments in England are now being encouraged to work together and coordinate efforts at a local scale.

The catchment partnerships will help to protect England’s water environment and deliver the Good Ecological Status needed for our water environment to comply with the European Water Framework Directive.

The PHCI builds on the extensive activity already underway in the catchment. Its main roles and functions include:

  • helping to identify the local problems facing the water environment
  • finding solutions to address these problems through a partnership approach


We need to work strategically with complimentary delivery to meet the targets set within our catchment. The PHCI will help to coordinate existing actions to ensure we are all working in the most effective way to benefit the water environment.


The PHCI provides a forum to improve communications between stakeholders. It also acts as a conduit for translating national guidance and improves external communications to help us learn best practice from national-and international projects.


The PHCI is an advocate for the catchment, aiming to secure funding where possible from local, national and European sources. Adopting a partnership approach strengthens the potential outcomes and long term viability. of projects.


The PHCI engages with stakeholders who have not been involved before. The Initiative recognises that everybody needs to take ownership and buy into the efforts of the PHCI if we are to succeed in protecting the environment supporting local people and businesses and securing a catchment that will provide for future generations.


The PHCI brings together stakeholders to identify more innovative and effective ways to deliver improvements in the future. Solutions need to be both environmentally sustainable and economically viable for the local businesses and people of Dorset.

The PHCI has developed a shared catchment plan that helps to coordinate and support the many projects and actions that are helping to improve the issues in the Poole Harbour catchment.

The PHCI is very keen to support an active partnership and remains committed to improving and protecting the water environment. The PHCI helps to take a strategic overview of all of the activities that are currently being delivered within the catchment and coordinates these activities via the PHCI action plan.

Who is involved?

The work and projects that are delivered as part of the PHCI are coordinated and guided by the following three groups:

PHCI steering group

The steering group represent a wide range of stakeholders and sectors in the catchment, they come together quarterly via the PHCI to discuss and agree the most effective way the Catchment Partnership can support delivery to improve the rivers, streams, groundwater and harbour.

All of our steering group members play a vital role in protecting and improving the water environment in our catchment. For more information about their work please follow the web links below.The steering group membership currently consists of the following organisations/representatives:


Poole Harbour Catchment Initiative steering group

PHCI agricultural and land management group

The chair of this farmer-led group also attends the steering group meetings with another farmer member of the group.

The PHCI agricultural and land management group was formed in 2014 to help coordinate and simplify the actions and messages that were arising from the many agricultural related projects/schemes in the catchment.

This farmer-led group consists of 16 local farmers and land owners who meet separately from the steering group. The group also includes members from the Watercress Growers Association, local agronomists and land agents.

The group aims to find solutions to the many agricultural related challenges facing the catchment. In particular, working to find sustainable answers to the problems related to diffuse leaching of nutrients into streams, rivers and groundwaters.

The following organisations support this group and also attend meetings and provide advice as required:

PHCI monitoring task group

The monitoring task group formed in 2013 to develop a more coordinated approach to sampling and collecting data within the catchment.

There is a vast array of data being collected by various organisations that relates to the water environment. It is important that we share data between organisations as this will help us to make decisions based on a good evidence base and ultimately help make improvements to the wider environment.

Collecting regular samples over a long period allows us to identify trends and changes to the water environment. It is important to keep monitoring at these long term data sites and identify where there are gaps in our data sources and knowledge.

Some of the data that is currently being collected in the catchment includes:

  • water quality such as nitrogen, ortho-phosphate
  • water flow such as flow levels
  • fish counts like salmon
  • invertebrate samples such as Riverfly monitoring group
  • sediment fingerprinting includingsediment trapping to identify where excess sediment is coming from.

The group helped to develop a monitoring work programme for the Poole Harbour Catchment. This shared work programme identifies different actions for each partner.

Please email info@pooleharbourcatchment.co.uk for more information about the monitoring group.

Poole Harbour catchment partnership

Catchment information

The Poole Harbour catchment is one of three sub catchments in Dorset.

Dorset catchment partnerships

The projects map

Poole harbour catchment partnership

Get involved

There are many ways that you can be part of the PHCI

Poole Harbour catchment partnership

Meetings, policies and documents

View our latest meeting minutes, newsletters and documents.