South Devon Catchment Overview

__South DevonThe South Devon Catchment covers 1500 sq km and consists of the Rivers Avon, Dart. Erme & Teign and their associated tributaries. Rising in the Dartmoor National Park, these rivers flow south and east of Dartmoor and empty into the sea at Torbay. With high rainfall and acid, peaty soil, the unique moorland environment these rivers rise from act as a natural ‘filter’, producing clean and clear water as result. The perimeter of Dartmoor is characterized by steep, undulating land with many of the valley sides comprising deciduous woodland. Much of it is used for extensive grazing by cattle, sheep and ponies. However, field size and agricultural pressure becomes progressively larger further away from the Moorland.

The Dart’s estuarine coastline is a designated Area of Outstanding National Beauty. Five SSSI’s in the Dartmoor National Park have been designated as has the Dartmoor Special Area of Conservation, with species including Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) and Otter (Lutra Lutra) being site interest features. Many of the headwaters provide valuable spawning grounds for salmonid fish. Supporting populations of migratory anadromous salmon and Sea trout as well as resident populations of brown trout (Salmo trutta) and catadromous eels (Anguilla anguilla).In total there are 74 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) within the South Devon Catchment.

In 2009, the catchment was categorized into 114 river water bodies, 10 lakes, 8 estuaries & coastal waters and 2 groundwater bodies. 42% of these were classified at Good Ecological Status or better under the Water Framework Directive.

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The South Devon Catchment Action Plan

Misty Dawn

As a society, we place numerous societal and economic demands on the landscapes around us which put strain on our catchments ability to provide the crucial services on which we rely – clean water, food production, protection from flood and drought and places to live and enjoy recreation. The Catchment Based Approach aims to bring people together to understand and address these competing demand.
The South Devon Catchment Action Plan has been created via a stakeholder‐led ‘ecosystem services’ approach with evidence from a wide array of sources used to facilitate the discussions. The Catchment partnership hosts, the Westcountry Rivers Trust and South Devon AONB, have been working with stakeholders from across the catchment to identify areas which play, or have the potential to play, a particularly important role in the delivery of clean water and a range of other benefits (services) to society.

Water Quality Action Plan
Water Quantity Action Plan
Species & habitats Action Plan
Value to People Action Plan

Catchment Partnership Action Fund Project

CPAF_South_Devon_600As a result of this action-planning process in the South Devon Partnership, we have successfully bid for and won a Catchment Partnership Action Fund Project for the catchment.

This CPAF project has been developed to reduce high loads of nutrients in downstream waters that are not derived from agriculture water pollution, as South Devon is a future target area within other schemes. We have chosen two small receiving waterbodies, Salcombe to Kingsbridge Estuary and Slapton Ley, and their associated catchments, of which are primarily failing for Phosphate (Slapton), Dissolved Inorganic Nitrate (Kingsbridge) under the Water Framework Directive. Nutrients, specifically nitrates, are derived from a variety of sources in the catchment.

The role of this project is to address these sources, with particular attention to those sources not picked up through existing schemes and projects. The sources fit into the following two categories;
1. Rural non-agricultural diffuse
2. Urban diffuse
You can read more about this project in the proposal - DOWNLOAD HERE.

Data & Evidence

It is vital that participatory, stakeholder-led catchment planning is underpinned by robust data and evidence.

For coherent, integrated spatial plans to be created, stakeholders (1°, 2° and 3°) and technical specialists in a partnership need to work with an impartial broker/facilitator to collate and scruitinise all of the data and evidence relating to environmental infrastructure and ecosystem services provision for their area/catchment of interest.

Only when these areas had been identified was it then possible to identify groups within society who benefit from the services they deliver and to create mechanisms through which these beneficiaries can contribute financially to support or enhance their delivery. Where beneficiaries already make financial contributions, the aim must be to ensure that these contributions are spent as cost effectively as possible to derive the greatest achievable environmental outcomes.

Through this process the stakeholders will develop;

1. A shared understanding of the pressures affecting ecosystem service provision in the catchment
2. A shared vision for a catchment with a blend of environmental infrastructure that can deliver all of these vital services optimally
3. A clear understanding of what is currently being done to realise this vision and what additional actions may be required to bring it to full reality

South Devon Catchment Evidence Review

South Devon Catchment Activities

There are a wide array of activities and projects now under way in the South Devon Catchment and several others that are being developed as a result of the Catchment Partnership's ongoing work to improve the health and functioning of this important catchment landscape.

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South Hams River Improvment Project : 50.237580, -3.769791
Dart & Teign River Improvement Project: 50.538827, -3.702374
The New England Woodland Trust: 50.361249, -3.915788
South Devon Catchment Partnership Action Fund (CPAF) : 50.283948, -3.777493
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South Hams River Improvment Project
In 2012, the South Hams River Improvement Project (SHRImP) was created using funding from the Catchment Restoration Fund to deliver improvement on the rivers Avon, Erme and Yealm and their associated tributaries.


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Dart & Teign River Improvement Project

The Dart and Teign River Improvement Project (DTRIP) is a partnership, led by the Westcountry Rivers Trust, which is using funding from the Catchment Restoration Fund to deliver improvements on the River Dart and the River Teign in South Devon.


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The New England Woodland Trust
A 52 acre site of rare ancient woodland has been saved for future generations thanks to two local residents who campaigned to keep the area for the community.

More info

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South Devon Catchment Partnership Action Fund (CPAF)
South Devon Catchment Partnership Action Fund

The South Devon Catchment Partnership Action Fund (CPAF) has been developed to reduce sources of urban diffuse pollution and rural non-agricultural pollution that are contributing to failures in Water Framework Directive (WFD) status.



Latest South Devon Catchment News

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The South Devon Catchment Partnership

River Catchment workshops have been held for the Dart, Avon, and Yealm, engaging local organisations, groups and relevant authorities in forming the South Devon Catchment Partnership. Working with the wider community the partnership aims to secure a healthy water environment for South Devon and encouraging local ownership of the solutions to improve all aspects of our river catchments from their source to the open coast.

It is intended this collaborative way of working will create an approach that delivers more environmental benefits, not just in water quality or biodiversity, but in flood risk management, drought protection and recreation as well as many others.


The Environment Agency has set up local partnership hosts, which for South Devon is a co-hosting partnership between the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit and the Westcountry Rivers Trust. The workshops focussed on four key subject areas of water quality, water quantity, species and habitats and value to people. Delegates discussed what the main local issues were and some possible solutions.

The events led jointly by The AONB team and the Westcountry Rivers Trust were attended by a variety of organisations including South West Rivers Association, Dart Fisheries Association, Environment Agency, Natural England, the Slapton Ley Field Studies Centre, South West Water, the Marine Biological Association, Plymouth University, together with local landowners and farmers.

Roger English, South Devon AONB Unit Project Officer said “The workshops proved a good way of involving a wide range of interests with passionate engagement from a wide range of organisations and landowners highlighting the issues faced across South Devon, along with a range of possible solutions. As a partnership we hope to turn this interest and energy into new worthwhile projects for our river catchments and be more effective with the resources and funding already at the partnership’s disposal.”

There will continue to be many opportunities for parishes and individuals to get involved – for further information, contact the South Devon AONB unit ( or 01803 861384) or the Westcountry Rivers Trust (

Are you interested in the South Devon river catchments? Do you have increasing pressure on limited budgets and resources?  Do you want to make the most of our combined efforts

If the answer is ‘yes’ then the Westcountry Rivers Trust and South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would like to invite you become part of the South Devon Catchment Partnership.

The Partnership has been formed as part of Defra's national Catchment-Based Approach initiative, which recognises that far greater environmental improvements can be achieved if all of the groups actively involved in regulation, land management, scientific research or wildlife conservation in a catchment area are drawn together with landowners and other interest groups to form a catchment management partnership.

So, we are bringing together all of the individuals, groups and organisations that are interested in the environment of South Devon to find out about the main issues affecting this precious landscape and to work out what we can do together to protect and improve it.

We hope that by working in a more collaborative and integrated way we may be able to develop a better funded Action Plan that delivers more environmental benefits, not just in water quality or biodiversity, but in flood risk management, drought protection and recreation as well...

The South Devon Catchment partnership is made up of three membership groups. Everyone who attended the workshops were invited to choose one of three levels of engagement with the project:

- Working group - agreeing to sit on a steering group to help the development of the action plan.
- Active group - involved in carrying out work on the ground.
- Informed group - on mailing list to keep informed about the project, with a view to possible future involvement.

If you would like to become part of the South Devon Catchment Partnership then please get in touch with the Westcountry Rivers Trust ( or South Devon AONB (