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Durham University



Welcome to the CAVERTI project: Communicating and Visualizing Erosion-Associated Risks to Infrastructure. CAVERTI is a partnership project co-developed and delivered by Durham University and the Wear Rivers Trust (WRT). The project was primarily funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) with match funding contributed by the WRT.

The project originated as a result of a heavy rainfall event on 18th May 2013 which lead to rapid runoff from agricultural land in the catchment of the Brancepeth Beck, a tributary of the River Wear in County Durham, North East England.

Significant runoff and soil erosion occurred on sloping arable fields in the catchment, leading to costly impacts on crop production and soil fertility, sedimentation of surface water drains, and flooding of roads and land downstream.

The images below illustrate some of the impacts observed at the time of the event.

(Click arrows to scroll through images):

Source: Farming community of Brancepeth, County Durham (please see credits).

Image 1 & 2 illustrate rills formed on the surface of bare soil on arable fields by the rapid runoff of rainwater over land. Along with tramlines these rills are likely to have been one of the main sources of soil lost from the fields.

Image 3 illustrates surface water runoff via tramlines routed downslope, over long sloping fields. The tramlines acted as a pathway for sediment to be washed onto adjacent land (and roads).

Image 4 shows how surface water runoff flowed from fields on to neighboring roads at the base of the slope via gateways and gaps in the hedge.

Image 5 illustrates how soil washed from farm land was deposited on adjacent roads resulting in expensive and time consuming clean-up.

Owing to a variety of significant erosion-associated impacts affecting land and infrastructure throughout the Brancepeth Beck, the catchment was selected as a case-study site for the research project, drawing the participation of farmers, land managers and asset owners from the area to develop the CAVERTI tool.

Please see the project background page for more information on the research approach.

Whilst minimum standards for protecting soils are set out by Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) for cross compliance purposes, from lessons learned in the case-study area it is likely to be beneficial for farmers to consider taking voluntary measures that may further enhance resilience to soil erosion occurring in heavy rainfall events.

The CAVERTI tool (see instructions) is designed to help users such as farmers and land managers visualize some of the risk factors for soil erosion occurring from agricultural land in heavy rainfall events and to identify and target interventions to help control the rate of runoff and protect valuable topsoil and the surrounding environment.

Heavy rainfall events can generate high volumes of surface water flowing overland, increasing the risk of:

  • runoff of sediments and contaminants that cause deterioration of water quality and river habitat when entering watercourses
  • the accumulation and deposition of sediment in drainage systems and on river beds reducing capacity for water, increasing flood risk
  • river bank erosion, leading to impacts on natural infrastructure (such as land and wildlife) and on built infrastructure (such as public utility pipelines, roads, culverts and bridges) that can be exposed or undermined

Case studies are provided to exemplify some of the risks increased sedimentation and rapid runoff from agricultural land have posed to infrastructure within the study area and the costs that were associated with responding to the impacts.

These examples also aim to raise awareness of the high cost of impacts on infrastructure, compared to the relatively low-cost interventions which could help mitigate the risk of these impacts occurring if applied to slow the rate of sedimentation and runoff from farm land at catchment scale.

Contact Details

Department of Geography
Durham University
Lower Mountjoy
South Road, Durham

Tel: 0191 3341800
Fax: 0191 3341801