Shaun Russell, retired biologist, writes about his experience of Water Quality survey packs and how to do it yourself.

When I worked at Bangor University I became the representative for Wales on the steering committee for the UK “OPen Air Laboratories” programme (OPAL) which ran between 2007 and 2019, and was supported mainly by the Big Lottery Fund:

This ‘citizen science’ project enabled children and adults to get hands-on with nature while contributing to important scientific research. OPAL designed a suite of field and desk-based activities suitable for all ages, abilities and backgrounds, and launched a series of national surveys of water and air quality, biodiversity, tree health, soil and earthworms, pollinators and a bugs count. Over a million people participated by contributing data about their local environment to specialists in universities and other science centres. This was collated regionally and nationally, thereby building up a picture of the state of the environment at that time.

The results of the programme are summarised in reports here: and the collected data can be downloaded from this site: .

The Water Quality survey pack consisted of materials for measuring:

  1. water clarity – using the ‘OPALometer’
  2. water pH using a dip-strip
  3. the presence or absence of aquatic invertebrate ‘indicator species’
  4. the presence or absence of amphibians, dragonflies, damselflies and duckweed.

40,000 water quality packs were printed and distributed free of charge throughout Britain. Data from 1,609 water survey sites in England are presented in a results paper here: .

For those wishing to conduct their own surveys of local freshwater quality, pdf’s of the original survey materials are still available for free download here:

You can of course also purchase kits for measuring water quality variables, such as pH, minerals, turbidity and bacterial counts, including E. coli. Technical test kits for fresh and salt water range in price from about £10 to many hundreds of pounds, but of course as with everything, you get what you pay for. 

15:44, 16 Apr 2024 by Helen Capstick

Hythe's favourite sustainable gift ideas this Christmas.

Find out the winners of our competition!

A large number of families were attracted to our WaterCAN stall at the Mistletoe Fayre, many of whom braved the cold to enter our competition 'My favourite sustainable gifts at Christmas time'.

Congratulations to Hana and Albie whose winning suggestions, bulbs to plant and a bug hotel kit, were both practical and nurturing of our environment.  We will be in touch to present you each with a £10 gift voucher to be spent  Sam Long's fruit and veg at her pop up stall in Dibden Purlieu!

Other sustainable Christmas ideas included: 

  • Max's Making Toys
  • Harry's Hedgehog hotel
  • Becky's Bamboo objects and upcycled clothing
  • Evie and Eric's Christmas card making
  • Riley and Layla's Greenhouses made out of plastic bottles 
  • Katie's Baking kit in a jar
  • and of course, home-baked sweets and treats

Our top tips for a more sustainable Christmas are:

  • Plan for all your food
  • Buy second hand
  • Make your own gifts and cards
  • DIY your decorations
  • Shop locally
  • and of course, relax and enjoy......

Thanks to everyone who took part. Many of the ideas have helped to form the Sustainable Gift Tree in our cover picture. Can you spot your idea?


20:51, 07 Dec 2023 by Helen Capstick

Mistletoe Fayre 2023

What you care about

Hythe's Mistletoe Fayre took place on one of the coldest days of the year so far. With temperatures hovering just above freezing, we filled our flasks with hot tea and took to the streets to talk about the WaterCAN network group.

We were very pleased to invite the Surfers Against Sewage representatives to have a stall next to us too. This stall was manned by Lee Attrill and Mark Hassard-Short (South Coast rep, West Wittering). By the end of the day we all knew a lot more about nurdles (hunts run occasionally at Lepe Beach), sewage practices and Southern Water than we had done at the start! Lee has also built up a family business selling his branded SeaRanger clothing, with images designed by his family. Lee will also be doing a talk for our local community about his Surfers Against Sewage steward's role in the new year. Watch this space!

Our stall attracted a large number of visitors, many of whom braved the cold to jot down their suggestions for better environmental protections. A wide range of ideas were put forward including the need for solar panels to be installed on all new builds, greater use of water butts and the banning of disposable vapes.

Children were particularly keen to decorate sustainable hazel wood Christmas tree decorations which they proudly took away as a memory of the fayre. They were also very engaged by our competition which asked for more environmentally friendly Christmas presents. We felt that the two winning suggestions, bulbs to plant and a bug hotel kit, were both practical and nurturing of our environment.  Congratulations Hana and Albie -we will be in touch to give you each a £10 gift voucher to be spent at Sam Long's fruit and veg pop up stall in Dibden Purlieu!

Thanks to everyone who took part. Many of the ideas have helped to form the word cloud in our cover picture. Can you spot your idea?

17:59, 04 Dec 2023 by Helen Capstick


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