A campaign group has published a survey that sets out recommendations for improvements to a river previously described as ‘ecologically dead.’

The River Lim Action Group, based in Lyme Regis, published an ecological survey by an independent freshwater ecologist, which sets out a plan to tackle the challenges the river faces.

This includes factors from sewage, land management, ageing infrastructure and historic engineering.

The River Lim in Lyme Regis was declared ecologically dead in May 2023 after the amount of human waste overflowing into it tripled in under a year.

Since then, the action group has been working with water companies and local government to improve the ecological standards which included a £20m bid for clean-up funding.

The group presented the report’s findings to Lyme Regis Town Council’s Environment Committee, which funded the survey.

Graham Roberts, a co-ordinator of River Lim Action, said: “The result of all this is that we’ve got a lot of work ahead to improve the health of the river.

“We’ve made a start over the last year and the ecological health has improved from a low base. The river is not out of the woods yet,” he warned.

The report outlines that levels of water quality data were recorded as ‘unsafe much of the time on the sections of the river below Woodmead Bridge.’ Overall, the quality ‘did not appear excessive’ but concerning spikes ‘do occur.’

E. coli data identified definitely from human source does show regular spikes with very high detrimental readings ‘at times.’

Habitats in the area were reported as being ‘generally good’ but a recommendation includes removing invasive species to the area such as Himalayan balsam as well as Japanese knotweed, of which four patches were recorded.

According to the report, the macro-invertebrate population was ‘fairly variable’ but numbers were generally ‘low and certainly could be improved.’ Eight species of riverfly were recorded by group volunteers in eight different locations.

Recommendations include an overhaul of the sewage system in a bid to cut pollution, gathering water quality data particularly for e-coli, improvements made to farms in water separation systems and waste containment by protecting the riverbanks with cattle fencing.

Another goal of the group would also be to see the river passable for fish and eels.

The group would also recommend that monitoring of macro-invertebrates continue in efforts to detect pollution and look more widely for stone loach.

Installation of debris dams, which is woody debris at strategic places could add to improving the channel, according to the report.

Mr Roberts said: “We’re grateful to the Town Council for making this possible. We’ve come up with a set of priorities for our work based on the report and will be talking to South West Water, the Environment Agency and Dorset Council about how we can secure much needed improvements which only they can deliver.

"As volunteers we will do what we can – we’ve got a big job on our hands.”