Slow Violence and River Abuse: The Hidden Effect of Land Use on Water Quality

This project has been awarded funding (August 2021) under the HAS-ACE Connecting Research Project Grant Scheme 2021-22.

Research team:

Professor Darren Reynolds HAS
Dr. Gillian Clayton HAS
Niamh Fahy ACE
Sarah Bodman ACE 

About the project:

The existentialistic threats wrought by human induced environmental change take place gradually and often invisibly.   

Figures recently released by the Environment Agency (2020) show for the first time that no river in England has achieved good chemical status and indeed that only 14% of rivers meet good ecological status in accordance with the European Water Framework Directive. Pollution from sewage discharge and land misuse (agricultural chemical runoff) is having a huge impact and such slow violence is diminishing water quality through increased nutrient loading of rivers, leading to algal blooms. These “eutrophication” events limit light penetration, reduce oxygen availability and greatly impact microbial and aquatic life.  


To address this “slow violence” and our inattention to the chronic lethality of environmental degradation.  

To bring innovative possibilities of the print artist and environmental scientist and create a new collaborative environmentalism that responds to declining water quality in local landscapes.  


Analysis of local rivers to determine contaminants associated with algal blooms.  

To produce printed works that integrates laboratory and studio-based methodologies to create printed narratives. 

Through fieldwork and experimental exchange of methodologies within HAS laboratories and ACE printing facilities this project will deliver the following:  

The work generated will be informed by the collaborative process of fieldwork and knowledge exchange in HAS labs.  

The HAS team [GC/DR] will undertake water quality analysis of local water bodies to understand their physicochemical state (e.g. nitrates, phosphates and dissolved oxygen concentrations), as well as identify algal species present. Algal species and any observed blooms shall undergo microscopy imaging (e.g. Light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy) of algal blooms performed by GC.  The laboratory work and imagining technology will inform and inspire a portfolio of prints to be created by ACE.  

The ACE team at CFPR [NF/SB] will use traditional printmaking and experimental photographic processes to create printed outcomes that investigate and respond to the relationship between land use and aquatic health. The work will use several print processes which respond to the specificity of water bodies investigated and the initial findings gathered through fieldwork and lab analysis. This process will investigate how collaborative practice may create accessible narratives that respond to complex environmental issues. The CFPR team will lead the development and curation of the exhibition / publication outcome.  

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