Why is the Don catchment a good case study?

Why does the University of Sheffield work on the Don catchment? Why does it make such an interesting study system?

Bridge over the River Don with footpath and wild flowers.

The catchment is extremely diverse. Within it there are gradients from rural to urban, upland to lowland, clean to polluted. The sheer variety of habitats, economics, land use, geology, topography and social issues present a wide range of research opportunities for a range of disciplines.

There is a large population resident within the catchment. The conurbations of Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley and Chesterfield cover an extensive part of the catchment and are home to over 1.3 million people. This presents both challenges and opportunities for areas such as nature conservation, water management and flood mitigation.

The area’s waterways have a history of being some of the most polluted in Europe; this has changed, and their continuous improvement offers a fantastic opportunity for restoration projects.

The rivers of the Don catchment are also culturally important. Many of the area’s towns, such as Doncaster and Sheffield, owe their location to the rivers, growing up at strategically important sites such as river crossings or the confluence of two waterways.

Rivers also played a huge role in the development of the area during the Industrial Revolution, with most industry relying initially on water power, changing to steam power as the 19th century progressed. 

Even now the area’s rivers still define the area, whether it is through place names and administrative boundaries (eg ‘Sheaf-field’, ‘Don-caster’, ‘Rother-ham’) or local identity (Sheffield is proud of its five rivers: Sheaf, Don, Porter, Loxley and Rivelin). They are even enshrined in popular culture (Sheffield musician Richard Hawley’s 2007 album was named after Sheffield's oldest crossing point over the Don: ‘Lady’s Bridge’).

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