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Thames Water launches 'smarter' plans to protect and enhance London's River Crane 

Wednesday 3rd November 2021 15:22

A group of people at London Zoo

Citizen Crane members and Smarter Water Catchments project partners at the London Zoo launch.

Thames Water is working with community partners and local volunteers to protect and enhance the River Crane – one of London’s urban rivers. 

Community groups, the Environment Agency and other industry experts joined Thames Water at the official launch event of its Smarter Water Catchments Initiative for the River Crane at ZSL, London Zoo. 

Volunteer groups such as Citizen Crane, a citizen science project supported by ZSL, shared how they are helping to identify where pollution is entering the River Crane through misconnected private pipes. The groups also take part in riverfly monitoring as well as a programme of water quality sampling, which is analysed for chemical and biological water quality at Thames Water’s Mogden laboratories. 

The Smarter Water Catchments Initiative is a £3 million project that aims to bring together organisations, community groups and residents from across the region to help secure a brighter future for the River Crane and other rivers in the area. 

The plans set out a 10-year commitment to help the Crane by boosting biodiversity and addressing water quality issues as well as providing wider benefits for local communities through natural flood management schemes, better access, schools programmes, volunteering opportunities and health and wellbeing benefits.

Richard Aylard, Thames Water sustainability director, said: “We are keen to play our full part in protecting and enhancing our precious rivers and streams – while there is still a long way to go, the ambition is clear. Working in partnership with local stakeholders we’ve set out our collective plans to improve the River Crane by reducing pollution, increasing biodiversity, and improving water quality.  

“We’re looking forward to working with local partners to improve access and engage as many local people as possible in this wonderful River and the wildlife on their doorstep. Our smarter water catchments are all about Thames Water collaborating with the people who know and love their local rivers the most, for the benefit of future generations.”

Joe Pecorelli, Conservation Project Manager ZSL, London Zoo said: “Now, more than ever, we need to restore healthy rivers where wildlife can thrive, and communities can access nature. We’re only going to achieve this through investment and by bringing all stakeholders together to overcome some of the many challenges faced by rivers, particularly in urban areas. This is why ZSL is delighted to be working alongside many other partners within the Smarter Water Catchment programme for the River Crane.”

Rob Gray, Chair of the Crane Valley Community Interest Company, said: “The Smarter Water Catchment project is a once in a generation opportunity to engage the public and private sector, alongside the half million people living in the catchment, in a ten-year programme of works that will transform the environmental and community value of this remarkable blue and green corridor which runs for 35km through west London”.  

The River Crane is an urban river and a tributary of the River Thames. It runs 8.5 miles in west London, flowing through the three boroughs of Hillingdon, Hounslow, and Richmond upon Thames.

Further ‘Smarter’ projects for the River Crane include: 

  • Reducing pollution issues identified on future Outfall Safaris, which track and identify misconnected private pipes and sewer overflows.
  • Enhancing flood resilience in the areas surrounding the River Crane, by increasing water storage capacity and infiltration through the creation of backwaters, wetlands, wet woodlands and other sustainable drainage systems.
  • Promoting public access by aiming to establish an unbroken Crane Valley trail from Headstone Manor to the Thames and along each major watercourse (Longford, Upper and Lower Duke’s Rivers), which would have visitor facilities at regular intervals.
  • Promoting biodiversity by helping the Crane achieve Good Ecological Status, removing barriers to fish movements, and halting and reserving the spread of invasive species. 

The full set of initiatives for the River Crane can be found on the Thames Water website. The company has also launched plans for the River Chess and the River Evenlode. The three plans were co-created in partnership with 67 organisations who have an interest in these rivers. Thames Water will be looking at expanding this approach to other catchments from 2025 onwards. 

Thames Water has created a customer survey for the River Crane catchment to find out where further improvements and enhancements can be made to local green and blue spaces. The survey will end on November 17 2021.