Blog post

Upstream Thinking – collaborating with farmers to improve water quality

Mar 29, 2022

by Peder Bøcher, UK Market Manager,

Implementing good management practices at farms plays an important role in improving the water quality of watercourses. At the Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT), Harriet Housam, a biologist and farm advisor, works together with farmers and landowners to help identify better ways to manage the environment and water on their farms.

Harriet recently joined our webinar on nature restoration to talk about her work and how she uses SCALGO Live.

The main project I’m working on is called Upstream Thinking. It has been running for 15 years now,” Harriet said. “It’s a collaboration between WRT, South West Water, Devon and Cornwall Wildlife Trusts, FWAG South West, South West Peatland Partnership, South West Lakes Trust, Catchment Sensitive Farming and the University of Exeter and different partnerships with landowners. We are looking at whether we can cooperate with landowners in upstream areas of larger catchments, where drinking water is extracted with an overall goal of improving water quality for drinking water. But we also look at other assets of natural capital, such as natural carbon capture, greening, and habitat creation.”

Figure 1. An overview of the area included in Upstream Thinking 3 (south west of England)

For Harriet, SCALGO Live has become an important tool for creating maps and communication material that she can take with her to the farms as a discussion point.

I can show where the water is going, show what actually happens and what impacts it might have on the environment” explained Harriet. “It’s been useful for seeing where the pollution sources are, where water is coming from and what way it is going to the major water courses.”

Figure 2. Example of a map from one of Harriet’s farm visits.

When advising farms, there are different kinds of inquiries from landowners that Harriet helps with. In some cases, farmers want to improve farm infrastructure and ensure that they follow best practice. In other cases, landowners are planning to make changes to the farm, and they want to ensure that there are no risks involved, for example, that they do not increase flooding downstream.

I prepare for farm visits by looking into SCALGO Live. For example, I can already start to explore if there are some wet areas. If there is a wet field, it might be less productive and could be suitable for wetland creation. I can easily prioritise what part of the farm I should visit since I cannot see it all.”

If you want to see Harriet’s presentation, visit our webinar archive and watch the Nature Restoration webinar from 3 February 2022.

Do you want to know more about how Westcountry Rivers Trust collaborates with farmers to improve water quality? Get in touch with Harriet ( or contact SCALGO (

If you would like to find out more about the Upstream Thinking project as a whole, please visit the South West Water website and search for Upstream Thinking or click here.