About the Ivel catchment

The River Ivel catchment is bounded by the Chiltern Hills to the south and Greensand Ridge to the North. The Rivers Ivel and Flit, and some tributaries, rise from springs in the Chiltern chalk. Several smaller watercourses (Running Waters, Chicksands Brook and Millbridge Common Brooks) rise from the Woburn Sands aquifer. The River Ivel headwaters are dominated by Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock. Further along the rivers are Ampthill, Biggleswade and Sandy. Elsewhere the catchment is mainly rural with agriculture and horticulture. The catchment is noted for its angling interest, water vole and otter populations and important wetland habitats.


The Environment Agency has been surveying and monitoring water quality in the Ivel catchment against WFD criteria since 2009. Details of the findings can be found from page 27 in the Upper & Bedford Ouse Management Catchment – Catchment Summary.

In both 2009 and 2013, approx. 33% of water bodies in the Ivel were classified as being of Good status. However, in 2013, there were fewer Moderate and more Poor water bodies. There is clearly much work for the Upper & Bedford Ouse Catchment Partnership to do – both as a partnership and through its constituent members – particularly those with statutory responsibilities, such as the Environment Agency and Anglian Water.

Investigations by the Environment Agency since 2009 indicate that the top 3 reasons for more water bodies in the Ivel operational catchment not achieving ‘Good’ status are:

  • Pollution from waste water – particularly from the water industry, but also from industry, manufacturing and other business;
  • Physical modifications to watercourses (including in-channel structures and channel straightening) – associated with a range of activities including industry, manufacturing and other businesses, transport and agriculture;
  • Negative effects of non-native species, in particular Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed, floating pennywort and signal crayfish.

The Upper & Bedford Ouse Catchment Partnership together with local groups, land owners and interested parties are working to identify projects and activities which can address these issues, to maximise the number of Good water bodies within the Ivel operational catchment.

Please navigate around the Ivel operational catchment map to see current, planned and completed projects. More projects will be added in the coming months and years.