Call of Nature - Case Study - Alt/CrossensCall of Nature

Project overview

Call of Nature is a campaign to prevent pollution in our rivers and watercourses caused by poorly maintained off mains sewage systems. The project is to address an issue recognised by several Rivers Trusts in the North West including the Lune, Wyre and Ribble Rivers Trusts as well as in the Mersey Rivers Trust, who jointly developed a toolkit. In November 2016, the Mersey Rivers Trust launched the campaign on the River Alt and its surrounding catchment. The main aim was to educate owners of septic tanks on the negative impacts they can have on water courses if not maintained properly and to improve water quality in the region.

Initial research

The first step of the project was to locate areas of poor water quality and identify the key communities that may be contributing to its decline. An engagement plan was then produced with ideas on activities and events that could attract the public.


The Mersey Rivers Trust held several events across the Alt/Crossens catchment to engage the public and educate them on water quality. This included stands at Martin Mere Wetland Centre and Mere Sands Wood where the Trust handed out information on septic tank maintenance, competitions and stickers. Social media was used to promote events and provide information on the project.

Water quality

Firstly, expert aquatic consultants, APEM Ltd, undertook a detailed survey to determine water quality before any engagement work had commenced, to locate the water quality issues. People attending local events joined the Mersey Rivers Trust 'River Guardians' programme, to become citizen scientists who will continue to monitor water quality to observe any changes over time. This will provide an indication of the success of the project and help to improve future projects.

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Call of Nature

Septic tanks can cause pollution to watercourses if they are not maintained properly. Call of Nature is a new campaign to raise awareness of the pollution that badly maintained septic tanks, cesspits and package sewage treatment plants could cause to the North West's rivers and waterways.

The North West region has the highest number of private sewerage systems in the UK with 60,000 properties not connected to the public sewer network. Septic tanks work like miniature sewage treatment systems, which store and treat waste from households.

A well maintained septic tank does not cause any problems, however when they are not serviced properly, they can have a negative impact on the environment, spreading disease in animals and humans and causing pollution in lakes, rivers and seas.

The Call of Nature campaign aims to make people aware of the risks of not looking after an off-mains sewage treatment system. The campaign, which is led by Morecambe Bay Partnership with support from the Environment Agency, United Utilities, Mersey Rivers Trust, British Water and the Lune, Eden, Ribble, Wyre, South Cumbria and West Cumbria rivers trusts, hopes to convince people that their actions can make a difference.

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Manchester Ship Canal Aeration Project

Salford quays aeration

A partnership of key organisations formed in 1998 by the Mersey Rivers Trust is improving the water environment of the Quays at the head of the Manchester Ship Canal.

To increase oxygen levels in the waters of the Manchester Ship Canal’s turning basin near Media City, air is being pumped deep into the water. It allows the fish and many aquatic species to breathe in these waters where, without aeration, they would not survive. There is a lack of the vital oxygen as a result of decades of pollution.The aeration, which began in 2012 as a trial for the ship canal, follows on from over ten years of pumping liquid oxygen into the water.

The decade of oxygenation brought back aquatic life so much that life in the water began to sustain itself without needing pure oxygen. But without the aeration, conditions would now revert back to days before oxygenation.

The aeration will be needed for a few more years yet and for the system to be applied to the rest of the ship canal.