Catchment management

Catchment Approach

In a catchment, rainfall that is not utilised by plants either infiltrates into the aquifer to become groundwater or continues on the surface as runoff, eventually flowing into surface water systems such as streams, rivers and lakes.

Our water supply is made up of both groundwater sources (boreholes) and surface water sources (rivers). 

A catchment is a defined area of natural landscape that collects precipitation and contributes to a body of water, such as an aquifer or river.

The quality of this water can be affected by activity which takes place on the land and rivers that make up the catchment area.

Agriculture, industry, waste management and water abstraction all have an impact on the catchment and the quality of the water within it.

An Overview: The Source, Pathway, Receptor Model

The catchment approach works on the model of source, pathway and receptor.
  • The sources include risks such as pesticides, fertilisers (nitrates), oils, industrial pollutants etc. which can vary between catchments.
  • The pathway is the route taken to the receptor. This can be via surface water or via leakage/leaching to the aquifer. This is influenced by multiple factors such as geology and weather.
  • The receptor is then the receiving body – e.g. a river, aquifer and ultimately the reservoirs and boreholes/water treatment works.
This model displays how contaminants can reach our sources and provides a method of managing these risks. By understanding and tackling problems at the source we can reduce our reliance on ‘end of pipe’ treatment solutions.

Our Catchment

Click to enlarge:



map of Blithe catchment area

What's the quality of raw water like in the South Staffs region? 

The quality of raw water in our region’s catchments is generally very good; however, there are some substances used in agriculture that prove persistent in the environment and pose a risk of exceeding the prescribed levels in raw water. This is why we are working collaboratively with landowners and farmers in priority areas on best practices and catchment improvements.

What are our long-term goals for managing the quality of raw water? 
We aim to rely less on ‘end of pipe’ treatment solutions and more on catchment management to improve the quality of our water. Tackling problems at the source improves resilience for the future and allows us to be proactive rather than reactive. This approach is not only more cost-effective and sustainable but also delivers greater benefits to the environment and our customers.

Catchment management can also provide improved control over challenging chemicals that pose difficulties for treatment works by addressing these substances at their source and along their pathways.

How are we going to achieve this?

  • Collaborate - Work in partnership with farmers, industry, communities, regulators (such as the Environment Agency, Natural England, Drinking Water Inspectorate, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and River Trusts) and other water companies.
  • SPRING 2 - SPRING 2 is an Environmental Protection Scheme set up by South Staffs Water to help farmers explore catchment-friendly land management. Under the scheme, farmers can apply for a grant of up to £10,000 per farm – towards the costs of voluntary on-farm infrastructural improvements and land management options designed to protect the environment and improve water quality. Find out more about SPRING here.
  • Research - Conduct research in each of our catchments to better understand how they operate including land use within each and the associated risks. 
  • Action - Participate in initiatives which encourage catchment-friendly use of agrochemicals and enhance biodiversity.
  • Educate - Inform people about the impact catchment management can have on improving the quality of raw water through awareness-raising events and host visits to our treatment works and reservoirs.

It is all about risk identification and then working with external and internal stakeholders to reduce those risks. 

For more information, download our catchment management leaflet here

Useful links 

The Volunteering Initiative

An industry-led programme that offers schemes, tools and messages to promote the responsible use of plant protection products through an IPM-based approach to sustainable agriculture.

Catchment Sensitive Farming

Advice for farmers and land managers on how to improve water and air quality and reduce flood risk on agricultural land.

The Catchment Based Approach

The Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) is an inclusive, civil society-led initiative that works in partnership with the Government, local authorities, water companies and businesses to maximise the natural value of our environment.