Litter, sustainable drainage and water quality in the Soar catchment

Leicester, which sits on the River Soar and several of its tributaries, is the largest city in the East Midlands and has a history of industry associated with the river dating back to Roman times. Recent urban growth, demand for land, and past views on water management has resulted in significant water quality issues that need to be addressed.

To address this, WaterLIFE has enabled the Trent Rivers Trust to look at the River Soar catchment and identify issues in water quality and flooding that are currently having an adverse effect. A recently appointed Community Engagement Officer has helped carry out this project to improve people’s understanding of water quality and Leicester’s flood risk and to show local people what they could do to manage it.

The project

One of the biggest challenges the River Soar face’s is litter. In the past, the Riverside Rangers and volunteers have worked hard to remove the litter, but this year they are being proactive and hoping that through education, they can stop the litter from even reaching the river where it can cause flooding and affects the health of the wildlife and the environment. This is where Leicester College got involved.

Leicester College drama students studying ‘Drama in Education’ put together a play aimed at primary school children called ‘The Riverbank’, which, along with a series of educational sessions on water quality and flooding, are being delivered to primary school children across Leicester.

The 'Clean Team' performing at Leicester College to help raise awareness of the issue of litter
The ‘Clean Team’ performing at Leicester College to help raise awareness of the issue of litter © Felicity Roos

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

The growth and spread of Leicester and Loughborough mean that large parts of the Soar catchment are now characterised by hard surfaces which increase the speed and volume of water runoff resulting in the rapid rise of river levels when it rains, which can cause flooding. Sustainable Drainage Systems aim to slow runoff by capturing it where it falls and replicating a more natural water cycle. The project aims to introduce SuDS and encourage households, business and community organisations to incorporate SuDS features into their gardens and public spaces. To date, two SuDS schemes have been agreed on in schools and one in a public park in Leicester.

Rain garden built at Whitehall Primary School last year as part of the 'SUDS for Schools' project © Vicky Salloway
Rain garden built at Whitehall Primary School last year as part of the ‘SUDS for Schools’ project © Vicky Salloway

The future

This project will last 4 years and there are a number of SuDS projects in Leicester which will soon be implemented. They are always looking for new ideas and opportunities and hope to launch a public awareness campaign later this year by advertising on buses, hosting a series of high profile events and working with community groups to increase people’s understanding of how they can help improve the water quality in the River Soar.