Skip to content

SCIMAP: A history of the rivers trust movement and hydrological connectivity

Alistair Maltby, Director North, The Rivers Trust

The earliest principles of the rivers trust movement were based on managing catchments as watersheds, and the twelve principles of the ecosystems approach. In the agricultural dominated landscapes of our rural rivers, this has lead to delivery of work often summarised in an offhand way as; “look after the land, and the river will look after itself”.

This was actually typified by extensive catchment scale projects, delivered on individual farm holdings, where project officers would walk watercourses (receptor), identify evidence of pollution and trace these routes (pathways), back to their (source), a well established conceptual model which is still rare to find applied in the field. Solutions for mitigating problems at these three locations, were subsequently developed with the farming community on the basis of economic savings, the success of which led directly to the development of the Catchment Sensitive Farming programme.

One significant problem with the concept as originally delivered, is that it relied on a lot of farmers doing a little to have a catchment scale impact. To increase the likelihood of success for increasingly limited conservation pounds, it became clear to the rivers trusts that tools for targeting this work were important, but that they needed to support the basic concept, rather than take a top down approach.

SCIMAP plays an important role in the rivers trust armoury for delivery of farm advice and river restoration because it is based on sound hydrological principles, is openly accessible and affordable for rivers trusts to use, is visually easy to understand, but most importantly, because it takes a relatively simple risk based approach which supports knowledge collection and delivery on the ground, rather than trying to circumvent it.