Evaluating the cost-effectiveness of combinations of diffuse pollution mitigation measures at catchment scales



Saturday, November 1, 2014 - 15:00


35 months (in addition to phase 1 - Dec 2009 - March 2014)




Using a national consortium working in the Hampshire Avon, Tamar, Wensum and Eden sentinel research landscapes, the Demonstration Test Catchment (DTC) programme aims to provide robust scientific evidence for testing the hypothesis that it is possible to reduce, cost-effectively, the impact of agriculture on water quality and aquatic ecology, but in the context of the need for the UK to support a thriving agricultural sector. Working with a range of stakeholders, the programme involves baseline characterisation of biophysical and socio-economic components of test landscapes, designing and implementing catchment-specific interventions for diffuse pollution control, on-site continuous or quasi-continuous monitoring of environmental responses and scaling up and extrapolation of the findings to help deliver strategic policy support.  The programme brings together leading international experts on water quality, soils, social science and land management to provide direct responsive policy support on options for reducing diffuse water pollution including those supported by Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) or agri-environment schemes.


The Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC) programme was established in December 2009 to gather empirical evidence on the cost-effectiveness of combinations of diffuse pollution mitigation measures at catchment scales.  Such evidence is needed to meet the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), as well as broader challenges associated with the sustainable intensification of food production. 

To date, the DTC programme has involved over 40 organisations, as well as acting as a research platform to support additional research investments (e.g. via the NERC Macronutrients, Changing Water Cycle and BESS initiatives), and capturing interactions and outcomes of various policy-driven initiatives such as Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) and the Catchment Restoration Fund (CRF).  It has three main research consortia focussed on the Eden in Cumbria, the Wensum in Norfolk and both the Hampshire Avon and Tamar in southern/southwestern England).

For Phase II (2014-2017), the national DTC consortia have been maintaining the research platforms established in their respective experimental target sub-catchments during phase 1 (2009-2014) to:

  • Address a series of policy-relevant questions;
  • Support the gathering of evidence on the efficacy of on-farm interventions particularly through the provision of data on water quality, aquatic biology and farm economics;
  • Collect information and develop analytical approaches that will allow upscaling and extrapolation of the local findings to regional and national scales;
  • Provide a sounding board on topics relevant to policy development on water quality and aquatic ecology.

In phase II, the project has four inter-dependent work packages:

  1. Understanding the nature of the problem (catchment function and response)
  2. Planning and implementing mitigation interventions
  3. Working with stakeholders and influencing behaviour change
  4. Developing improved monitoring and research techniques to inform, monitor and evaluate policy and extend DTC outcomes to other catchments.


View publications


For phase II (2014-2017):

  • University of Exeter
  • University of Bristol
  • Queen Mary University of London 
  • Westcountry Rivers Trust