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water@leeds Aire-Calder innovation catchment

The River Aire and River Calder arise in the Pennine hills, flowing through upland farmland to a number of former mill towns and the extensive urban area of the Leeds City Region before entering arable lowlands. The variety of land use and form within a relatively small area makes the catchment ideal as a site for water and associated land-based research. In a relatively small area (around 2000 km2), the catchment includes:

  • wide range of rural and urban environments;
  • potential discharges from a range of industries, both current and historical, including major power stations and major transport networks;
  • population of over 3 million people;
  • swift flowing upland streams in narrow valleys; and,
  • gentle meanders on broad floodplains.

We continue to grow the network of monitoring and types of monitoring to cover flows, water quality, soil water processes, urban and rural hydrology, land use and management practices, and so on. We work alongside local practitioners and stakeholders to use suitable sites and maximise the usefulness of the data.


Current instrumentation

The first phase of the enhanced instrumented catchment, kindly supported by an anonymous donor, has been operational since 2015. It includes six new monitoring stations in headwater catchments of the Aire and Calder - five of the stations are telemetered (via mobile phone network). Each site is equipped with a Gill MetPak Pro weather station with SBS-500 tipping bucket rain gauges; three of these sites also include water level sensors. In addition, water@leeds have a range of standalone monitoring equipment in place in upland sub-catchments within the Aire and Calder and also just outside the Aire catchment at Barden Moor. These items include seven rain gauges, six temperature sensors and 20 pressure sensors continuously measuring discharge as well as a range of equipment to monitor water-table heights and soil water chemistry. All of these build upon the wider long-term existing gauges in the catchment that have been run by other bodies such as the Environment Agency.

Projects may want to, for example, build on the data network, utilise existing data to test new forms of data analytics/machine learning, try new forms of monitoring as part of internet of things approaches, test new models, enhance monitoring networks, or test effects of river or land management change.