For much of its 45 mile length, the River Stour marks the county boundary between Essex and Suffolk. Rising in Wratting Common in Cambridgeshire, the river runs in a south-easterly direction, discharging into the North Sea just north of Manningtree. The River Stour has 7 major tributaries including the rivers Glem, Box, Brett, Stour Brook and Chad Brook.
The Stour catchment is 858 km2 and is intensively farmed for predominantly arable crops, with a small amount of livestock. The landscape is undulating with a soil type that is mainly chalky clay.
River water quality
Nitrate, and the pesticides clopyralid and metaldehyde can be present in the river water and are extremely difficult to remove through the treatment process. These substances mostly originate from agricultural land where they are applied as fertiliser, and to prevent weed growth and damage to crops by slugs. Phosphate and sediment also coming from the land can result in poorer river water quality. Removing these substances from the river water requires additional amounts of chemicals and energy, and therefore increases the cost of producing drinking water.
Essex & Suffolk Water works collaboratively with Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) project, as well as other stakeholders within the Stour catchment, with the aim of reducing the amount of pesticides, nitrates, and also phosphate and sediments, running off the land into the river.
Events, training and advice
Essex & Suffolk Water, alongside CSF, host events, training and advice days on a range of topics and can provide free one-to-one farm visits on a variety of issues, advice on fertiliser sprayer and pellet spreader calibration, biobed installations, farm mapping and agri-environment visits.
Your catchment advisor
Steve Derbyshire is Essex & Suffolk Water’s Catchment Advisor for the Stour catchment. Steve has a strong agricultural background with an HND and BSc in Agriculture, and is BASIS and FACTS qualified. Steve has previously worked for an independent research company conducting agricultural chemical trials, and he has worked on farms in the UK and overseas, gaining an in-depth knowledge of pesticide use in agriculture.