Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC) is a UK government-funded project designed to provide robust evidence regarding how diffuse pollution from agriculture can be cost-effectively controlled to improve and maintain water quality in rural river catchment areas.
By adopting an open and transparent approach to catchment research, the aim is to accelerate our collective understanding of diffuse pollution and its transfer to policy development to aid better practical and cost-effective approaches. Collaborative approaches offers the best prospects for managing land and water in a balanced way, protecting valuable ecosystem services and ensuring the long-term sustainability of our agricultural catchments.
The DTC project is currently working in four study catchments across England, which are representative of 80% of UK soil/ rainfall combinations and the major farm types in England and Wales. The catchments were selected in order to build on existing infrastructure, datasets, knowledge and farming contacts developed through previous and ongoing initiatives, which have not previously been well linked. The catchments are also undergoing enhanced monitoring through the England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative.:
- The Eden in Cumbria
- The Wensum in Norfolk
- The Avon in Hampshire
- The Tamar on the Devon/Cornwall border
Data and evidence from the three DTCs are being archived and managed through The DTC Archive Project
The Programme brings together over 40 organisations across the country – scientists, farmers, regulators, policy makers, NGOs and industry groups. The guiding principle of the DTC projects was that they should be the foundation for a collaborative ‘research platform’ upon which other research projects can draw and build.
Three Roles for DTC:
DTC was established to address the gap in empirical evidence on the cost-effectiveness of combinations of diffuse pollution mitigation measures at catchment scales. By setting up as a platform with a community of researchers working closely with local stakeholders (practitioners and policy-delivery agents) and policy-makers it is also addressing the other challenges described above. DTC has three main roles:
1. As a programme of linked and co-ordinated research projects: to provide underpinning research, from farm to catchment scale, that informs policy and practical approaches for the reduction of agricultural diffuse pollution and the improvement of ecological status in freshwaters, whilst maintaining economically viable food production.
2. As a research platform: to host longer-term collaborative research on diffuse pollution from agriculture, funded by multiple organisations. The aim is to establish a community of researchers and stakeholders enabling short and longer-term policy-relevant research questions to be answered, steering research and translating science into practice.
3. As a demonstration and co-ordination activity: To demonstrate scientifically robust approaches to diffuse pollution mitigation and explore ways to bring science into stakeholder-led catchment management.
Monitoring programmes, communities of researchers and suites of experimentally applied mitigation measures have been established in each catchment to provide evidence on the trajectory for water quality improvements towards WFD targets. The research communities, monitoring infrastructure and data generated by the core DTC projects support a number of satellite projects to test mitigation measures and further understand the physical, ecological and social functioning of river catchments. Activities hosted on the DTC research platform are funded by Defra and other organisations. By adopting the platform/community of practice approach the research can be undertaken by the academics and rapidly applied in practice, whilst the practitioners in the community can test the more practical questions.