Water UK 21st Century Rivers report makes rallying call for 'new deal' for England's rivers

Management & Regulation, Processed Water, Water Resources

Just over a week after the launch of The Rivers Trust's State of our Rivers report, Water UK – a trade association which represents the UK's major water companies – has published its 21st Century Rivers: Ten Actions for Change report, echoing many of the former's conclusions and creating a 10-point action plan which they hope will 'restore the health and resilience of rivers as sources of habitat, life and joy '.

The report calls on everyone from river users and customer groups, to environmental NGOs to join Water UK and the companies it represents in a radical rethink of current approaches to river management.

Emphasising the need for collective action Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty said: "Water companies are passionate about their own role as stewards of the natural environment and are committed to playing their part, but what’s needed is a clear, single, national plan, involving everyone river users, customer groups, environmental charities, government, regulators as well as agriculture, highways, and all the sectors impacting river quality."

Continuing she added: “Our new report clearly sets out ten key steps needed to achieve the radical changes we all want. We’re also asking government to bring forward legislation in a new Rivers Act that will provide greater protection for rivers in law. Water companies don’t have all the answers and without everyone working together, we simply won’t get the radical transformation that’s needed and the healthy, thriving rivers that everyone wants.”

This action would see a shift away from 'ad hoc changes to individual problems towards a systematic plan', based on actioning the ten report reccommendations, which are outlined below:

  • A national plan for rivers – a long-term strategy for rivers involving all partners and the creation of a senior National Plan Steering Group to lead progress
  • Protection in law – A new ‘Rivers Act’ to ensure legal protection and close loopholes
  • Local empowerment – Ensure leadership and action at a local level by building on the success of the Catchment Based Approach
  • Accountability – Use data to look at all sources of harm in rivers, challenging each sector to put in place concrete steps to tackle all barriers to river health
  • Next-generation monitoring – Work towards a national monitoring platform to collate and make available data on ecology, chemistry, and public-health from all rivers
  • Support people – Government, manufacturers, and retailers to work together to transform the public’s understanding of the water environment, campaigning to help consumers play their part too, especially on wet wipes and unflushables
  • Prioritise nature – Embed habitat restoration and species renewal across legislation and spending priorities
  • Abstraction – Government to introduce a target under the Environment Bill to reduce the amount of water abstracted for the public water supply
  • Storm Overflows – Agree a plan to eliminate the 4 per cent of harm caused by storm overflows to English rivers (see CIWEM's work on Storm Overflows)
  • Bathing Rivers – Develop a new approach to ‘Bathing Rivers’ for the delivery of safe recreational use of inland waters in every region of England

On the report CIWEM's head of policy Alastair Chisholm said: "There is a common theme to many of the publications on this subject recently such as the Rivers Trust's State of the Rivers Report. That is, working, funding and delivering outcomes collaboratively.

"The multitude of factors behind the stagnating or failing health of our rivers need this collaboration to address but we need new, updated frameworks to make that work in practice. At the moment there's too much scope for important details to fall down cracks and for those having an impact on the environment to pass the buck to another party."

What's your reaction to the report? Why not continue the conversation by joining our Rivers and Coastal Group?

Share this article

Become a member

Whether you are studying, actively looking to progress your career, or already extensively experienced, our membership will add value and recognition to your achievements. We can actively help you progress throughout your career.

Become a member

View our events

We organise a wide portfolio of UK and international thought leading events, providing an industry recognised forum for debate, CPD and sector networking. These events also support our policy work and inform key initiatives.

View our events