Stour catchment partnership

Stour Catchment Initiative logo

Welcome to the Stour catchment initiative

The Stour catchment initiative (SCI) is a partnership involving a wide range of groups and organisations that share the common aim of improving the water environment of the Stour. The partners work collaboratively to ensure that the Stour catchment meets the needs of people for water, food, industry and recreation whilst supporting the wildlife that depends on it. 

A collaborative effort by the SCI partners, this section outlines the issues in the catchment and how we will improve the river for people and wildlife. It will also help us to meet objectives under the Water Framework Directive (WFD), a European Union directive aiming to protect and improve all water environments, including surface water and groundwater.

The map below shows the Stour catchment, its rivers, the water bodies that make up the catchment, their status under WFD, and a brief description of the sections of the catchment, the elements that influence the rivers and consequently their status.

Stour background map
Stour background map

Catchment description

The Stour catchment drains an area of 1,240km2. Most lies in Dorset, with smaller areas in the northern part of the catchment in Somerset and Wiltshire. The River Stour flows from its source near Stourhead in Wiltshire, descending 230 metres over a distance of 96 km to the coast at Christchurch Harbour where its water discharges into the English Channel.

There are many tributary rivers, particularly in the north and south of the catchment area. These include the Cale which flows through Wincanton, the Lydden running from Buckland Newton to Sturminster Newton and the River Crane/ Moors River running from Cranborne down to the edge of Bournemouth.

The middle part of the catchment is chalk downland and has few rivers. One of the most significant is the Allen which joins the Stour near Wimborne. 

Stour at Tarrant Crawford Bridge
Stourhead, Bella Lucas
Blandford Bridge
Blandford Bridge, Antony Firth/Fjordr

Designations

The Stour catchment contains several types of designations that recognise and protect important landscapes, heritage, wildlife habitats and species and the water environment. 

Some are statutory designations made under international or national legislation, whilst others are local designations endorsed by local councils. 

The Stour today

The Stour is a beautiful river with many natural features; it is teaming with wildlife and has a diverse range of habitats. If you are interested in helping to protect and enhance the Stour catchment visit the how you can help.

Stourhead
Stour at Tarrant Crawford Bridge

How our activities impact on the catchment

Throughout the catchment, our activities can affect the water quality and quantity and therefore what the river can be used for and the wildlife it can sustain. Find out more about the water cycle.

What happens in any part of the catchment can have a ‘knock on’ effect downstream in the catchment. For example, fertilisers spread on the land can be washed off in a rainfall event into a watercourse, or in urban areas, chemicals and substances that accumulate on roads and pavements can be washed off into the river through the surface water drainage system, and can then affect the river and bathing water quality downstream.

Flooding can also be a problem if we don’t fully consider the impacts of how we manage the land in the catchment. For example, by building on the floodplain the storage of flood water would be reduced, or by straightening rivers and streams the risk of flooding could be relieved in that area, but both could increase the likelihood of flooding downstream as more water would reach it quicker. Explore the related downloads on the right for more information on the key issues within the Stour catchment.

This is why it is so important to consider the whole picture and adopt a catchment based approach rather than focusing just on local issues.

Find out what we are doing to resolve the challenges and enhance the catchment.

The catchment based approach

In March 2011, the government announced the launch of the catchment based approach (CaBA), a way of working at river catchment scale to improve the water environment. Twenty five pilot catchments were selected by DEFRA to trial CaBA.

Catchment Based Approach - Partnership for Action

CaBA is about much more than just complying with the Water Framework Directive. It allows local communities, businesses, local authorities, organisations and other stakeholders to come together to plan and deliver improvements to the water environment. CaBA was officially adopted by government in June 2013 after the success of the pilot catchment partnerships. There are now over 90 catchment partnerships.  

Water Framework Directive

The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force in December 2000 and became part of UK law in December 2003. The WFD provides an opportunity to plan and deliver a better water environment, which for the first time also focuses on ecology. The Environment Agency is the competent authority for the WFD.

The WFD introduced a formal series of six year river basin management plans (RBMP) cycles. RBMPs identify the objectives required to deliver the WFD. The first RBMP cycle will end in 2015 and the RBMP will then be updated and re-issued.

The WFD has a primary focus of improving the ecological health of water bodies, this is assessed by measurement of their ecological status. At Good Ecological Status (GES), a waterbody has the healthy balance of fish, aquatic plants, diatoms and macro invertebrates.

However, these plants and animals require the correct water quality, water volume and flow conditions in order to survive. To achieve good ecological status it is often the case that the chemical, hydrological and morphological conditions need to be good for the biology to respond. The hierarchy of class for surface waters is summarised on the right.

The catchment assessment table summarises the main ways a typical catchment is assessed under European directives.

Water Framework Directive

The UK, under the Water Framework Directive, has a duty to manage its waters from their existing state into a better condition.

The partnership

The Dorset Wildlife Trust and Wessex Water were appointed as co-hosts of the Stour catchment initiative (SCI) in October 2013. The SCI will help to support the development of a more informed river basin management plan for the south west and support the actions required at the river catchment scale to meet the Water Framework Directive requirements.

Anyone who affects, enjoys or benefits from the Stour, Christchurch Harbour and the nearby coast is a stakeholder in the catchment partnership. Their interests are represented to date by a number of groups and organisations who reflect their interests in the catchment such as fishing clubs, local authorities, environmental charitable trusts and industry.

The key challenges have been identified and an action plan has been developed.