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An Introduction to the Defra Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC) Programme

The Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC) programme was established in December 2009 to inform the mitigation of agricultural water pollution across farmed landscapes in England. We have taken a ‘learning by doing’ approach to develop, test and demonstrate suites of measures at landscape scale that are practical within commercial farming systems. Our approach recognises the river catchment as an appropriate spatial unit for understanding and managing water quality, whilst balancing the demands of food production and environmental protection. The diffuse, and often sporadic, weather-driven nature of agricultural pollution means that understanding the effectiveness of mitigation measures requires a long-term monitoring approach, both pre- and post-implementation of on-farm interventions. Applying this at a catchment scale in the DTCs has required interaction between broad communities of stakeholders, regulators and scientists. We are now working on upscaling our findings from case-study sub-catchments to generate best practice for wider catchment management.

The summary document guides readers through the conceptual framework that we are using to develop bespoke on-farm mitigation strategies, by illustrating each of the steps through example case studies. It also sets out emerging findings from phase 1 and describes the ongoing programme of work (phase 2) to 2017.

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About the Author: Dr. Sim Reaney is a catchment hydrologist and modeller based in the Department of Geography at Durham University.

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