At the last assessment, the Environment Agency concluded only 14% of rivers in England were ecologically healthy. Rivers are threatened by a cocktail of pollutants: from sewage pollution, agriculture, industry and transport. A third of all rivers are failing due to sewage pollution, and in 2021 water companies discharged untreated sewage into rivers for 375,000 hours.
Despite this, every fortnight, over 4.3 million people visit the UK’s lakes and rivers. These inland water bodies provide humans and the wider ecosystem with a range of benefits: from flood prevention to creating habitats to numerous species. Thousands of hours and millions of pounds each year are spent on water-based activities, like swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, sailing and angling, on and near these “blue spaces” which has been proven to improve our wellbeing.
Swimmers, paddleboarders and kayakers on rivers, lakes and streams deserve to have access to the same high standard of water as those who surf, sail and swim at the coast. The first step to improving the state of our rivers, and ocean, is to make sure the legal obligations are in place to improve water quality, by gaining official bathing water designation.