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A catchment is a geographic area of land defined naturally by the flow of rainfall into a body of water, such as a river. The specific pressures on a catchment vary depending on the geology, climate and environmental sensitivity of the catchment, as well as the type of land and water uses in the catchment (for example: farming practices, water supply, recreation and industrial activity).

The type and extent of land and water uses in a catchment, as well as the state of the natural environment, has an impact on matters such as:

  • the quality and quantity of water within the catchment;
  • the extent to which the land can be effectively drained;
  • the goods, services and wildlife that the catchment area can sustain.

Catchment management can therefore involve a range of different approaches across a catchment in order to achieve a number of different outcomes. These include flood risk management, managing and improving water quality, water abstraction management, improving habitats or restoring landscapes and soil quality.

Upland or upstream management can refer to the location of the relevant measures within the catchment. For example, a measure such as managing peatland and forestry at the upstream point of the water body to mitigate the impacts of flooding. There are a number of pilot schemes looking at the science and evidence around such measures. More information on the example of flood risk management is provided below.

Useful resources

Some useful resources on this topic are:

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