Catchment Management Solutions

By targeting pollution at its source, WRc provides evidence-based outcomes for the environmental and financial impacts of water quality.

Dr Karen Murrell is our expert in Catchment Management Solutions

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Trusted catchment advisors

WRc offers solutions for environmental and financial challenges posed to water quality at its source. This upstream approach to pollution prevention not only benefits water quality, but also biodiversity, sustainability of resources, recreation, and our economy. 

We provide the advice, support and tools required to implement cost-effective solutions to today's environmental problems. Trusted by the water industry and by European and UK regulators alike, we are often the first port of call for authoritative information on which to base strategic environmental decisions.

Decisions informed by evidence

Environmental evidence provides the basis for assessing the state of the environment, developing sustainable management solutions and evaluating the effectiveness of policy implementation. WRc appreciates the critical importance and value of scientifically robust information to policy makers and decision takers.

The WRc Environmental Evidence team have expert knowledge and a detailed understanding of the response of the aquatic environment to a wide range of human pressures. 

Our team uses a combination of state-of-the-art scientific knowledge, cutting-edge data analytics and advanced econometric analysis. Along with high level catchment modelling techniques, we compile and independently assess environmental evidence in the context of existing policy.

Risk assessment

Options development

Solutions optimisation

Cost benefit analysis

Don't just take our word for it

  • Achieving phosphorus compliance
  • Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) evaluation
  • Strategic data collection
  • Metaldehyde risk
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Pesticide risk

WRc’s experienced catchment scientists, process scientists, and modellers support clients with building business cases, as well as designing, optimising, and evaluating the effectiveness of phosphorus offsetting schemes. 

Our developed seven-step process facilitates active stakeholder engagement and includes a toolbox equipped with modelling, cost-benefit analysis and data strategies, allowing clients to achieve phosphorus compliance by meeting Water Framework Directive Regulation targets.

In one example, WRc delivered a software solution that provided a water utility client with dynamic cost-benefit ratios for potential phosphorus permits at over 70 wastewater treatment works, which also maximised on the environmental benefits.

For over 10 years, WRc has supported the Environment Agency to determine whether CSF has achieved its objectives of raising farmer awareness, reducing pollution, and improving environmental quality.

WRc developed a methodology to detect and quantify improvements in water quality in relation phases of CSF advice. These studies were influential in optimising CSF’s monitoring programme, securing continued funding for the CSF Project, and informing Defra’s policy on rural diffuse pollution.

WRc developed a strategic approach to environmental monitoring in catchments affected by diffuse water pollution. A simple, five-stage framework was proposed, in which data-gathering activities were driven by the needs of end-users and evolved in response to changing business needs.

Trialling the framework on two case study catchments identified efficiency savings and identified opportunities to undertake targeted investigations. Following this guidance allowed the client to collect data in a strategic and efficient way and turn it into useful information that supports the delivery of catchment outcomes.

WRc assisted the water industry identify cost-effective catchment based approaches to managing risks from metaldehyde. 

Drawing on monitoring, modelling and anecdotal evidence, the project undertook a comprehensive national evaluation of the effectiveness of alternative measures for reducing pesticide losses from fields and farmyards. The pros and cons of spot sampling, online instruments and passive samplers for monitoring metaldehyde were also reviewed.

Our team compared voluntary, financial and legislative mechanisms for delivering catchment schemes, in order for the water industry to achieve the most effective outcome.

WRc identified, quantified and monetised the likely impacts of catchment management schemes in relation to conventional water treatment solutions.

For a range of land management scenarios, changes in concentrations of nitrate, pesticide, algae and colour were predicted for surface and groundwater Safeguard Zones, and used to model potential capital and operating cost savings. Valuation of wider benefits of the proposed schemes for biodiversity, recreation and carbon storage were also identified.

The results were used to extend the client's catchment management programme to non-owned land.

A combination of catchment management, abstraction management and treatment keeps pesticide concentrations in treated water safe to drink. 

WRc instigated a collaborative research project with seven water companies to explore the threats and opportunities presented by the factors hindering pesticide compliance.

The project improved the evidence base for business planning of future catchment management and treatment operations. It also helped companies fulfil their regulatory reporting obligations to the drinking water quality regulator.


statistical software for non-statisticians

Analyse Any Routine Data; Visually Acquire Real Knowledge

WRc’s Aardvark software provides easy access to a variety of statistical methods and graphical analyses to help answer many of the most common questions asked of routine environmental quality monitoring data, such as:

  • Is water or effluent quality getting better or worse, or more or less variable?
  • When have changes occurred and were they gradual or sudden?
  • Are we doing enough sampling… or too much?

Enquire about how Aardvark can help you by contacting our team via the form at the bottom of this page.

      Integrated Catchment Modelling (ICM)

      Our team provide water quality modelling solutions to:

      • Support the development and implementation of catchment management plans
      • Ensure that discharges are compliant with environmental regulations
      • Identify integrated pollution management solutions. 
      WRc’s innovative environmental modelling package, SIMPOL ICM, provides fast, long term simulation of the whole water cycle at a catchment scale. Water resources, treatment, distribution and customer demand are combined with urban and non-urban source pollution impacts, in order to assess flow and quality in receiving waters in response to rainfall and temperature variations.

        Applying SIMCAT-SAGIS for river quality modelling

        • The Environment Agency’s SIMCAT software is a river water quality model that has been used in the UK and overseas for over 30 years. It is able to predict flow and quality distributions at any point in a river catchment. 
        • SAGIS is a GIS based tool that collates a wide range of spatial data and converts it into a form that can be used by SIMCAT. 

        WRc has considerable and long-standing experience applying SIMCAT and SAGIS for environmental regulators, water companies and industrial customers. For example, it can facilitate the apportionment of loads and concentrations of chemicals from different sectors to Water Framework Directive water bodies.

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        “WRc’s contribution to the development and implementation of this programme of work has been invaluable.”

        Roy Taylor - Catchment Manager
        Northern Ireland Water

        The WRc technical staff working on the project were very knowledgeable and thorough.

        Portsmouth Water

        WRc worked collaboratively with our delivery partners to integrate the latest scientific and economic evidence and produce a compelling business case for continued catchment management interventions which will benefit our customers and the wider environment.

        Laura Flower - Senior Catchment Management Scientist
        Severn Trent Water

        We were very pleased with the support given during the project; the final report was of an excellent standard.

        Environment Agency

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        Dr Karen Murrell

        Principal Consultant (Catchment Management)

        Karen's expertise lies in river impact assessment and integrated catchment management studies involving river hydraulic and quality modelling (both model application and development). This includes determining impacts of weather derived rural and urban pollution on receiving water quality. She also has extensive experience in consenting policy and application. Karen regularly works to apply deterministic and stochastic river quality models (such as SIMPOL ICM and SIMCAT/SAGIS) for WFD compliance, climate change impact assessment and Urban Pollution Management (UPM) studies.