Project Overview

From its inception in 2020 as a citizen science project (click here for background) iWharfe continues to bring together partners and citizens to care for the water quality and health of the River Wharfe. 

Water Testing

Water testing continues to play a large role in the project:


Tributary water testing 

Over six days in August and September 2023, 36 YDRT volunteers and staff took 162 samples from nine main tributaries running into the Wharfe upstream of Ilkley bathing water designation point. This was a collaboration between volunteer Citizen Scientists, YDRT, the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Water. It has helped us to gather data on bacterial levels from the major tributaries feeding into the river, focusing on E.Coli alongside standard chemistry analysis. The results will build on the data gathered over the last three years and broaden the understanding of the River Wharfe.


Estate water testing

YDRT is part of a team helping the Denton Estate to establish a baseline understanding of the health of their waters. The team of experts has come together from the University College London (UCL), the University of Liverpool and citizen scientists from Addingham Environment Group. Funded by Nidderdale AONB under their Farming in Protected Landscapes programme, there have been two rounds of water quality testing at the Estate near Ilkley. Each set has covered the length of the watercourses, from moorland to valley bottom, first in February 2023 and then repeated in August 2023. The data gathered will provide the Estate with information to help steer future land management decisions for the benefit of aquatic wildlife on the Estate and downstream on the River Wharf.

Water sampling at the Denton Estate August 2023

Project development

Wider works alongside water testing include:


  • Collaborating with the Environment Agency & Yorkshire Water, looking at connecting efforts to drive forward fact gathering and on the ground interventions to improve water quality from pollution sources including non-mains sewerage. 
  • Supporting capital interventions of river protection through catchment walkovers, highlighting opportunities to support improvements. Capital interventions include river fencing (before and after example photo below!) and engaging with farmers across the catchment. 
  • Creating a farming calendar to track the effects of differing farming practices on river health throughout the year.
  • Collaborating with other organisations in the catchment to join up where work overlaps, including joint meetings with the Catchment Sensitive Farming representatives along the Wharfe from Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park (YDNP) and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
  • Distributing  leaflets and advice on septic tank good practice to holiday homes and caravan parks in the area to help reduce the effects of non-mains drainage pollution.
  • Developing a Data Hub to help encourage and make it easier to identify and share data across the River Wharf. A collaboration between the Dales to Vales Rivers Network and the national Rivers Trust, funded by the Environment Agency.
iWharfe fencing works near Kilnsey Spring 2023

Inspiring others

Discover how the iWharfe project has informed and inspired neighbouring citizen scientists in the Nidd area to take action on their river. See the iNidd project for more detail