Sullied Sediments

Contact Us

For information about the Sullied Sediments project, contact:

Project Lead
Professor Jeanette Rotchell
University of Hull 
(+44)1482 465333 

Project Coordinator
Annabel Hanson
East & North Yorkshire Waterways Partnership
(+44)1482 391678

What is the Sullied Sediments RiverDip volunteer programme?

14 July 2020 - Published by Annabel Hanson
Learn about water quality and how you can help to improve it in your local watercourse

What is the Sullied Sediments RiverDip volunteer programme? 

One of the ambitions of the Sullied Sediments project is to reduce the levels of certain Watch List chemicals entering the water system by raising awareness about what we, as citizens and consumers, are releasing into the environment through the use of common drugs and household products.

So, what is the RiverDip volunteer training and sampling programme? 

As part of our awareness raising campaign for the project, the Sullied Sediments team has developed a ‘citizen science’ programme called RiverDip. The programme involves training volunteers to take samples from their local waterways and measure the levels of phosphate in them. Phosphate is a chemical that you would expect to find in rivers and canals because it is commonly used in fertilisers, manure, and organic wastes in sewage and industrial effluent. It is an essential element for plant life. However, when there is too much of it in water, it can cause algae and aquatic plants to grow in abundance, thereby choking up a watercourse and using up large amounts of oxygen needed by other organisms.

The main tools that our RiverDip volunteers use to gather water samples and measure and record the phosphate levels have been developed by the University of Hull with support from the other project partners. These tools are:

• a paper device (PAD) that uses a colour change process to detect and visually represent the level of phosphate in a water sample (working very much like a pregnancy test)
• a bespoke app called RiverDip, which volunteers use on their smart devices to record the results from the PAD and share them with the project researchers (downloadable for free from the Apple app store and Android Play Store)

There are three main aims of the RiverDip citizen science programme. First, we use the training as an opportunity to talk to volunteers about some of the other substances present in our rivers and canals that are adversely affecting water and the sediment accumulating in these freshwater systems. In particular, we are focusing on Watch List chemicals, which are new or emerging substances, such as diclofenac (anti-inflammatory drug) and triclosan (antibacterial and antifungal agent), that are not yet subject to environmental regulation. Secondly, we use the training to inform volunteers about ways that they can avoid using these chemicals and manage their impact on the environment. And thirdly, in carrying out the sampling, the volunteers are collecting valuable data about phosphate levels in watercourses from a wide range of locations. This data is being collated and presented via an online map ( and shared with those who can use the information.

How can I get involved?

The RiverDip volunteer programme was suspended due to the Covid-19 situation earlier this year. We are delighted to announce now that it will be resume with a free workshop held in Ghent on Monday, 12 October 2020, from 13:30 to 16:30. We are grateful to our project partner, VMM (Flemish Environment Agency), for organising the event and to Professor Mark Lorch from the University of Hull, who will be leading the training. To register, please visit:

Please note that registration is limited to 35 participants and will close on 30 September 2020. The event will be delivered in English.

Sullied Sediments has been has been co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg VB North Sea Region Programme with equivalent match funding from the partners involved. The project partnership includes public, private and third sector organisations based in the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.