VAL RADFORD knows the water running off the fell next to her home near Kendal in the Lake District is clean and pure. She measures it.

Every month, she takes her monitoring kit, supplied in a partnership between Manchester Metropolitan University and the Women's Institute and checks levels of nitrates, oxygen and acidity. She also takes its temperature and notes any specs of vegetation.

Other members of the WI are carrying out similar measurements in the North West and more are being trained for the rest of the country under a programme called Streamwatching with the WI.

The project is linked to further Streamwatching initiatives undertaken with schools and community groups. It provides a monitoring service for water quality experts at the Environment Agency and the water companies.

Information collected is highlighting the differing effects of heavy rainfall and drought on the quality of water, and how rivers change from winter to summer.

Brenda Keogh, the project's manager, said: "We are getting the community involved in what is happening on their own doorstep."