Upstream Thinking

Banner image

We’re changing the way we think about water and the landscape. Working with our partners we will ensure a better future for farming, value for our customers, improve wildlife habitats, restore wetlands and ensure future resilient water supplies.

Our Upstream Thinking project is an multi-award-winning catchment management scheme which applies natural landscape-scale solutions to improve water quality and supply.

The project is delivered through a unique range of partnerships between ourselves, Westcountry Rivers Trust and Devon and Cornwall Wildlife Trusts, government agencies, environmental experts, landowners and tenant farmers, whilst the evaluation of the change in water quality at catchment scale is undertaken by the University of Exeter. 

The story so far

In 2020, we completed our second five-year Upstream Thinking programme. You can read about what we achieved between 2015 and 2020 and find out more about what we’ve got planned for the next five years here. This will include working across 18 catchments in Devon and Cornwall, encompassing 80% of South West Water’s drinking water catchments. 

UST doc tumbnail.JPG

Download the Upstream Thinking Report here

What’s Upstream Thinking?

Before you turn on the tap and have a drink, enjoy a relaxing bath or shower – the water, an essential commodity within all our lives has travelled across high grounds, through farm land, rivers and streams, been stored in reservoirs and then processed. Human impact on the land has an inevitable effect on our rivers. Peat bogs, wetlands, hedgerows, fields, woodlands have altered dramatically over time. Farmyard manure, artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides are released onto land and into rivers, through the way landscapes of the south west are managed.

Extensive research is being undertaken by the University of Exeter to understand the impact of Upstream Thinking on water quality. More information about our work with the University of Exeter through CREWW can be found here .

What are we doing?

In 2003, we encountered complications with eutrophication at Upper Tamar Lakes. The reservoir was experiencing an annual nutrient-driven algal bloom, which caused problems for water supply and ecology downstream. 

It got us thinking...

  • How do we stop these nutrients from entering the reservoir whilst supporting farmers and the rural economy?
  • How do we protect our customers from rising bills they face as a result of having to treat more difficult raw water?
  • And how do we manage the impact of global warming on the business that we run?