River Nidd sampling reveals high levels of faecal bacteria
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Last updated Aug 30, 2023
Shirley Hare and Warren Considine testing the water at Oak Beck

A major water sampling operation along the length of the River Nidd has revealed high levels of the faecal bacteria E.coli.

Dozens of volunteers tested water quality at 45 locations on August 3 as part of an ongoing clean-up campaign.

Analysis of the results has now revealed high levels of E.coli, which can cause illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhoea, along the Nidd and “extremely high levels” at some points — especially the beck tributaries.

Volunteers conduct sampling at Oak Beck this month.

A second round of water sampling is due to take place next month before a formal bid is submitted to the government to designate bathing water status on the Nidd.

If accepted, agencies will be obliged to undertake measures to clean the Nidd, as has happened on the River Wharfe in Ilkley.

David Clayden, chairman of Nidd Action Group, which is coordinating the sampling, said:

“The results so far indicate high levels of E.coli, particularly down river. Specific locations, including some of our becks, show especially high values whose origins we need to understand better through discussions with the organisations charged with keeping our River Nidd clean.

“I’m not surprised by the findings as this is a uniquely comprehensive, citizen science led activity, aimed at exposing the true levels of pollution in the Nidd, and through rational analysis getting them improved.”

River Nidd water sampling

Volunteers involved in the project to test Nidd water quality.

Knaresborough bathing levels

The results showed in the upper catchment, down to Birstwith, the concentrations of E. coli were much lower than in the middle and lower catchment.

E.Coli concentrations rose below Killinghall sewage treatment works and stayed high, with the most extreme value at Nidd viaduct, below the confluence of Oak Beck and the River Nidd.

Knaresborough sampling locations had concentrations well above the levels deemed sufficient for inland bathing water. Reports of bathers around Knaresborough Lido falling ill played a major role in prompting the campaign.

The tributaries in the middle and lower Nidd catchment all had particularly high concentrations of E.coli – Ripley Beck, Oak Beck and Crimple Beck. Bilton Beck was extremely high.

Mr Clayden said besides next month’s second round of testing, “many more local actions” were being planned to provide improved information to help look after our river. He added:

“During the survey I was heartened to meet many wonderful local people, volunteering their precious free time to understand and benefit their local river.”


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