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Durham University


Project Background

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.

Though it may be difficult to visualize, it is estimated that 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil is lost annually (in England and Wales) amounting to between £180 and £280 million in costs to the farming industry. The significant rate at which soil and nutrients are being lost from farm land threatens the quality and quantity of land for future crop production. Furthermore, diffuse runoff from agricultural activity is thought to account for 70% of sediments, 60% of nitrates and 25% of phosphates found in watercourses (Cooke, A., 2015) (see credits). Such inputs to river systems can cause deterioration of their ecological condition, owing to impacts on both wildlife habitat and water quality.

The CAVERTI project aimed to develop an interactive tool for use by farmers, landowners and the WRT to help visualize factors affecting the risk of soil erosion occurring on arable land as a result of heavy rainfall events, and to support decisions on interventions to help mitigate these risks. This interactive tool (the CAVERTI Tool) can be accessed from the menu featured left.

The project also aimed to raise awareness of the indirect affects that rapid runoff and sedimentation can have upon a variety of infrastructure at catchment scale. To achieve this, we collated examples of some of these indirect effects as case studies, provided courtesy of Northumbrian Water Ltd., Northern Gas Networks and the Environment Agency. Where possible, an indication of the financial costs incurred by land managers or asset owners in responding to erosion-associated issues has been included.

It is envisaged that as heavy rainfall events may become more frequent and more intense in an unpredictable climate, investment in proactive measures to help mitigate erosion-associated risks to infrastructure could prove to be more cost-effective in the long term; we hope this website stimulates interest in catchment based approaches and potential measures to do so, and offers useful signposting to where further advice can be sought.

Using a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach, the study sought to draw the collective knowledge of farmers and stakeholders from the Brancepeth Beck catchment in County Durham and from across the North East region to develop the CAVERTI Tool, and to collate case studies to raise awareness of erosion-associated risks to infrastructure in the catchment of the River Wear.

Participants were invited to contribute to the project in a variety of ways, through semi-structured interviews, farm visits, participation in engagement events, and through provision of case-study materials and images.

Please contact Professor John Wainwright at Durham University or Project Officers at the Wear Rivers Trust if you have any comments or questions in relation to this project or ideas for further research you would like to explore.