18. Luton Lea Catchment Monitoring App research

Themes: Community engagement and participation; Improving water quality and water quantity


  • Improve local knowledge and understanding of the river and the issues facing it
  • Increase public access to and involvement in the river
  • Promote the river as a community and educational resource
  • Work together to investigate and implement solutions to manage and minimise sources of pollution

Project description

A Cranfield University student's Masters thesis is exploring the best ways of capturing monitoring data along the upper stretch of the River Lea.

General aims

  • To assist the River Lea Catchment Partnership (RLCP) in the design of an ongoing community-based monitoring scheme for the River Lea around Luton
  • To raise awareness of the threats to the river, and to consider how local residents and stakeholders might be encouraged to form a network of volunteers, who will carry out the necessary fieldwork
  • To develop a web based, accessible and engaging tool to collate and present the data, to create a timeline of the health of the River Lea and allow volunteers and general audience to see the value of data being collected

Specific objectives

  • To review successful community-led river monitoring schemes, and to research the usual requirements of chalk stream observation, as per the Water Framework Directive
  • To consult with members of the RLCP (EA, Groundwork, Luton Borough Council etc.) to better understand the external factors that impact the River Lea around Luton
  • To identify what characteristics of the river should be monitored, in which locations, and how often
  • To assess who should be encouraged to get involved with the monitoring, and what training & equipment should be provided. Should there be different ‘levels’ of contribution?
  • To review existing applications used in the collection of field data, both open-source and proprietary (for example, ArcGIS Collector, Fieldwork GB & Cartographer)
  • To design an application that allows for the input of data, but also provides an interactive and educational user experience
  • To evaluate the data collation and storage requirements for field data provided to the application
  • To provide recommendations of how the work of this Thesis might be taken forward and used by the RLCP and other river catchment partnerships

Project methodology

This project will begin with a period of desk-based research and consultation with stakeholders, to better understand the River Lea ecosystem, and the reasons why monitoring is required.

After visiting the river, and identifying those locations that are at particular risk, a monitoring scheme will be designed to target these areas in particular. Work might include the identification of invertebrate and plant life, and assessment of siltation levels. As the sampling required at these locations may involve resources not available to the general public, it is suggested this fieldwork should be completed by individuals with a certain level of training/experience. It is also important that local weather conditions are captured during sampling.

In addition to the targeted monitoring, a community-led study will be developed, to capture a general overview of the river landscape in the Luton area. This could include photographs, litter counts and reporting of wildlife sightings. Accessibility and river safety will be considered during this phase of the project, as well as ways of encouraging community participation.

To allow both groups to report their findings, a web-based application will be created, allowing for the input of field data. The application will also guide the user to the required sample locations, and provide relevant information about the study area on an attractive map interface.

A suitable storage location for the field data will be identified, as well as a means of passing data on to those organisations that will make use of the research. The EA may wish to use the monitoring data to advise interventions and investments within the River Lea catchment. It may also be possible to use the data repository as a way of observing ongoing changes to the river ecosystem.

The project will conclude with recommendations going forward, both for the River Lea and other catchment partnerships. There will be 2 aspects to these recommendations; survey design for monitoring of urban chalk streams, and techniques for successful community engagement.


Download the summary of the project findings (pdf file).


Project lead: Cranfield University
Project start: May 2015
Project end: September 2015
Contact for more information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting.