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May 9th, 2024

What does a Water Quality Testing Volunteer do?

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We’re very lucky at ARRT to have a great group of volunteers helping us carry out vital work to help our rivers and wildlife thrive. Two such volunteers are Andy and Viv. Here’s a little bit about what they do as ARRT volunteers and why they find this work so interesting and rewarding.

What volunteering do you do for ARRT? 

We are involved in Water Quality Testing in the Horsham District of West Sussex.

After performing the simple tests, we log our test results into a central system which contributes to a much wider programme of monitoring by Citizen Scientists, throughout the ARRT region and joining up with similar programmes around the UK.     

What does a typical volunteering day involve?

At the moment our volunteering with ARRT is limited to water quality testing, although we are looking to get more involved.

Our aim is to perform water quality testing at least monthly to ensure regularity in results - we try to do this on a fortnightly basis when able. We currently test at two different locations on Boldings Brook (which feeds into the River Arun in Horsham), both of which are a short journey from home.

Taking a water sample and running the various tests takes us around 15 minutes, and logging the results onto the central system another 5 minutes (although with practice, we are refining how we do this and getting better!)       

We do take the opportunity to combine water quality testing with getting out into the countryside and enjoying nature.

Why did you choose to volunteer for ARRT? 

Having recently retired, and as regular visitors to Warnham Local Nature Reserve in Horsham, we wanted to channel our spare time and energies into worthwhile environmental projects.

While there are already some fantastic green initiatives in the Horsham District, such as joining up the fragmented areas for insects by creating pollinator highways, there seemed to be a gap in terms of understanding the quality of the river water passing through it. We were very aware of the media reports about untreated sewage sometimes being discharged into water courses, and wanted to be able to identify any issues that were pertinent to the area.     

Additionally, a Waste Incinerator is expected to be built to the north of the Warnham Nature Reserve, from which treated condensation is planned to be discharged into Boldings Brook, passing through the Warnham Local Nature Reserve and into the River Arun. Before the building and operation of the incinerator start, we wanted to produce a baseline set of water quality results to identify any subsequent changes.           

It was opportune that ARRT got in contact about the opportunity to volunteer, and we believe that the water quality test results will be mutually beneficial to ARRT and Horsham District Council.

How much time do you dedicate to volunteering with ARRT?

We initially attended a workshop with ARRT that included information about the wider context and reasons for water quality testing, along with training on the various tests and health & safety awareness.

For the actual testing, we spend in the region of around 80 minutes per month (say 20 minutes x 2 sites = 40 minutes every two weeks).

Through the Friends of Warnham Local Nature Reserve, we have also supported ARRT in growing the numbers of volunteers in the Horsham District. With the support of the council, which generously allowed the use of a building at the Reserve, ARRT recently ran a workshop for around 18 new volunteers.  

Andy completing paperwork on the riverbank

Would you recommend it to others and why?

Absolutely, and we have already encouraged a number of likeminded friends in the area to volunteer.

Through the workshops and further reading we have become more aware of the demands on freshwater and other sources of pollution in it, and hope that increased awareness may help to change some of the damaging behaviours.   

Being outdoors and close to nature is important to us both, but also rekindling an interest in science, along with making a small contribution to a much wider project in such an important area.

It has been a pleasure to meet the good folk at ARRT. They are very passionate and knowledgeable about what they do, and very supportive. We look forward to helping them as best we can.

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