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Water industry calls for a wave of bathing rivers as part of a new national plan to improve the health of English rivers - Water UK

aerial view of a river Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Water companies want government, agriculture, and other sectors to come together and help create a series of bathing rivers across the country

Research shows the many sources of pollution in rivers, and proposes ten actions for transforming their health, including next-generation monitoring to revolutionise data, and greater protection in law through a new Rivers Act

The water industry is calling on all parties to play their part and show greater ambition to deliver fundamental changes

Water companies have today set out ambitious plans to dramatically improve the health of England’s rivers. In a ground-breaking new report, the industry sets out ten key actions which must be met to dramatically improve the nation’s rivers and waterways.

Among the proposals is the development of a new approach to ‘Bathing Rivers’ to massively increase safe inland bathing areas for recreation. Currently there is only one river with designated bathing water status, the River Wharfe in Ilkley, but water companies in England want to work with government and other sectors to secure safe inland bathing waters in every region of the country.

Elsewhere the report calls for a new long-term strategy for rivers to include input from Government, regulators, water companies, catchment partnerships, agriculture, highways, and other sectors to help guide and prioritise investment and policy change. This would allow a step-change from the historic approach of disjointed, incremental, ad-hoc changes and include the creation of a new ‘Rivers Act’ to bring together all existing legislation and provide greater protection for rivers in law.

The report, entitled 21st Century Rivers: Ten actions for change, sets out the importance of all sectors working together to achieve the fundamental changes required. Only around a quarter of the challenges facing rivers are caused by water companies with the largest source of harm coming from agriculture with other sectors, such as highways and local authorities, also playing a part.

The creation of a national plan to eliminate harm from storm overflows, prioritising nature-based solutions and action to massively increase public awareness of the water environment are among the other bold proposals made.

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