CITIZEN science could be the key to cleaning-up Cheshire's rivers and holding polluters to account.

Northwich town councillor for Winnington and Castle ward, Lee Siddall, says with proper support, the community could collect water samples more often than the Environment Agency (EA) and water companies such as United Utilities (UU). 

Known as citizen science initiatives, these projects engage communities in scientific research and monitoring, and include much-loved national schemes like the BBC's Big Garden Birdwatch. 

They’re also a powerful tool for gathering large sets of reliable data cheaply, and a great way to get young people engaged with the natural world and put theory they learn at school into practice.

Cllr Siddall's comments come in the wake of reports of mass fish deaths in the Rivers Weaver and Dane on Wendesday, June 14, which some have linked to pollution from raw sewage overspills. 

He said: “Polluted rivers are a real danger and can have serious impacts on human and animal health.

"In the case of the Rivers Weaver and Dane, there are many sources of pollution, including sewage discharge, agricultural runoff, and industrial waste.

"One of the biggest problems is the lack of frequent water quality testing, as without regular monitoring, you can’t identify the source of pollution and take the proper steps to address it.

"The Environmental Agency is responsible for this testing, but limited resources means not all rivers are monitored regularly, and I don’t trust water companies to mark their own homework.

"That’s where citizen science projects come in, which have been shown to produce accurate and reliable data.

"They also promote environmental literacy and social equity by breaking down knowledge barriers.

"With a collective efforts, together we can bring changes and a positive impact on our environment."

EA confirmed they collect samples from 60 points along the Rivers Weaver and Dane, testing water quality, insect life, and micro-organisms such as algae.

They were unable to comment on exactly how often these tests take place.

A spokesman for EA said: “We take tens of thousands of water quality samples every year as part of our work to keep rivers clean.

“Sites selected for monitoring are based on local priorities, however where possible we try to utilise sites that can be used to address multiple issues.

“Citizen Science initiatives provide invaluable data, which complements the EA’s monitoring and assessment work and enables a greater level of engagement with partners.

“We hugely value the contribution of England’s enthusiastic citizen scientists and share their passion for the environment.

“We welcome various emerging initiatives and look forward to working more closely together to help find solutions to the complex problems water is facing.”