SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Catchment Management for Protection of Water Quality

Two projects have been funded by the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (RELU), a collaboration between the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), with additional funding from the Scottish Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the UK Government. The RELU programme aims to advance understanding of the challenges facing rural areas in the UK. Interdisciplinary research is being funded between 2004 and 2012 in order to inform policy and practice with choices on how to manage the countryside and rural economies.

See the Catchment Management Resources website


2007-2010: Catchment Management for the Protection of Water Resources

This project investigated how to extend the scientific and social accomplishments of innovative catchment management programmes in the USA, Australia and other European countries to the UK. A catchment management 'template' has been derived which compiles and assimilates scientific understanding and governance procedures as tested in actual decision making and management practice in case study catchments. 

In the project researchers from SOAS, the University of East Anglia and Cornell University have worked in partnership with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, the New York City Watershed, and the Hudson River Estuary Programme in the USA; groundwater protection programmes in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany; and the Healthy Waterways Partnership in SE Queensland, Australia. Two UK catchments served as case studies against which the lessons from international experience were tested: the River Tamar and the River Thurne. 

2010-2012: Innovative Market-Based Mechanisms and Networks for Long Term Protection of Water Resources

Faced with climate change, many of our catchments are already under stress from high demands for water and from diffuse and some point source pollution. The risk and severity of flooding may also be increasing. We need improved ways to protect water resources at source and alleviate flood risk. This requires change in land use and farming practices and the cooperation of land users. Advice and capital grants backed up by regulation can take us so far, but this project investigates how we may go further by incentivizing landowners to set aside targeted areas of land with most beneficial effect for water protection.

The project will investigate ‘Payments for Ecosystems Services’ (PES) schemes. These involve a voluntary transaction in which a land use providing an environmental service is paid for by one or more beneficiaries. The project will partner and evaluate the Westcountry Rivers Trust’s WATER project in South West England, which aims to develop a market-based catchment restoration scheme.  
Success will demonstrate a means to strengthen adaptive land management for water protection whilst maintaining viable farm businesses under conditions of environmental change.
It is a key premise that a PES scheme for water protection requires networks, partnership working and creative knowledge exchange. Three key groups are: providers of environmental services (land managers); technical intermediaries (the agency managing the scheme); and beneficiaries of services (the people and organisations that pay).

For more information, see: