Are UK rivers healthy?

UK rivers are essential to our local environment. Not only do they provide an abundance of habits and help with getting fresh water to our homes, but they also fight climate change by sequestering carbon emissions in the atmosphere. But if they aren’t healthy, they can’t do their jobs. We see a lot of news talking about sewage leaks and all sorts of harmful chemicals being leaked into our natural waterways so the question is. Are UK rivers healthy? Are they able to fulfil their role in our environment?


The current condition of UK rivers 

Earlier this year it was revealed that just 6% of Britain’s rivers are set on course to be healthy in 2027. Currently, just 14% are healthy in England, 40% of Scottish rivers are healthy, 45% in Wales are but none in Northern Ireland are considered healthy. That being said, no English river has a good chemical status currently, which is measured separately. It’s clear that UK rivers are in a dreadful state and it doesn’t look like they’re going to be improving any time soon.  

How do rivers get into these poor conditions? 

Just like every environmental issue we face, this sort of thing does not happen overnight. In fact, it takes many years of neglect. If you go out into a forest or walk near a stream, you’ll find litter that is years old. We’ve known people to go on a litter pick and find wrappers that are decades old! We’re talking about finding the classic 90s marathon bars.  

But the neglect comes from many different sources. The media has us believe that waste is being purposefully dumped into our rivers by large corporations. However most of the time, it’s small actions building up over time. The same way we repair the UK rivers is the same way it’s been harmed, little actions over time.

Litter being dropped in parks. Wet wipes being flushed. Fats and oils poured down kitchen sinks. Fly tipping at the side of roads. Pouring chemicals into our drains. These all have the potential to end up in our rivers.  

While it’s true that some sewers do burst and end up in our rivers, we must as ourselves why they burst in the first place. It’s because of unflushables ending up in sewers creating blockages. It’s not always the case, but if we can do something about it, we should. Right? 

How to help clean up our rivers 

We know now that our rivers are in utter turmoil. Unless immediate action is taken to help repair them, we’ll end up with no UK rivers functioning properly. Remember, every tool that can be used to help reduce climate change should be utilised. While every action we do here at Greenredeem helps towards a better future, by leveraging another tool like rivers and trees we maximise the difference we create.

Cleaning up our rivers from an individual’s perspective is easy. Stop putting anything into our drains that don’t belong there. Flushable wet wipes, floss, hair, cooking fats, grease – just because it fits in the drain doesn’t mean it easily flows to a facility where it can be removed. So keep your drains and sewers as clear as possible from harmful items.  

As a community we also have power. Litter-picking groups do incredible work at making the local environment look better, but why not head to a local river for a litter pick? This ensures that the litter in the area doesn’t travel any further than it should either downstream or out to sea. We guarantee there are plenty of litter picking groups in your area – check with your local council for more information on how to join them to ensure you have the proper equipment for them.

Rivers just like our woodlands are essential for our environment. They’re often overlooked compared to the oceans and tree-planting schemes. But they also need our help. What’s more is that we as individuals have more capability to help rivers than we do oceans and woodlands because we have a home that we live in. We all use bathrooms with loos and have the ability to protect our drains. Whereas not all of us have access to the sea or woodland. So, if you want to help protect the planet, a good way to start, is to protect UK rivers.

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