The Demonstration Test Catchment (DTC) project is a joint DEFRA, Environment Agency (EA) and Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) initiative working in four river catchments across England:
Three Roles for DTC
DTC was established to address the gap in empirical evidence on the cost-effectiveness of combinations of diffuse pollution mitigation measures at catchment scales. By setting up as a platform with a community of researchers working closely with local stakeholders (practitioners and policy-delivery agents) and policy-makers it is also addressing the other challenges described above. DTC has three main roles:
1. As a programme of linked and co-ordinated research projects: to provide underpinning research, from farm to catchment scale, that informs policy and practical approaches for the reduction of agricultural diffuse pollution and the improvement of ecological status in freshwaters, whilst maintaining economically viable food production.
2. As a research platform: to host longer-term collaborative research on diffuse pollution from agriculture, funded by multiple organisations. The aim is to establish a community of researchers and stakeholders enabling short and longer-term policy-relevant research questions to be answered, steering research and translating science into practice.
3. As a demonstration and co-ordination activity: To demonstrate scientifically robust approaches to diffuse pollution mitigation and explore ways to bring science into stakeholder-led catchment management.
Monitoring programmes, communities of researchers and suites of experimentally applied mitigation measures have been established in each catchment to provide evidence on the trajectory for water quality improvements towards WFD targets. The research communities, monitoring infrastructure and data generated by the core DTC projects support a number of satellite projects to test mitigation measures and further understand the physical, ecological and social functioning of river catchments. Activities hosted on the DTC research platform are funded by Defra and other organisations. By adopting the platform/community of practice approach the research can be undertaken by the academics and rapidly applied in practice, whilst the practitioners in the community can test the more practical questions.
Demonstration Test Catchments will find out if new farming practices, which aim to reduce diffuse pollution from agriculture, can also deliver sustainable food production and environmental benefits across whole river catchments. The programme is investigating the impacts of pollution both on ecosystems and on sustainable production and the programme aims to provide information to better predict and control diffuse pollution from agriculture.