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Healthy rivers

Call for river stakeholders to ‘up their game’ to make rivers climate resilient
White swan in the Thames near Embers-wood Camping site, Henley

All river stakeholders in London need to improve their actions on tackling pollution that ends up in the city’s rivers and work together to promote climate-resilient river ‘rewilding’ projects, the organisers of London Rivers Week have urged.
 
London’s rivers can be beautiful spaces for wildlife and for people, but they can also face great challenges, including regular discharges of untreated sewage, run-off from busy roads and increasing plastic pollution.

The city is also likely to face more extreme weather more frequently, due to the climate emergency. This will lead to accelerated and intense periods of drought and flood, and so London’s rivers will need to be ‘climate-resilient-ready’ to tackle these issues.

The value of rivers

The Catchment Partnerships in London (CPiL), which runs London Rivers Week (11-17 July) through its London Rivers Restoration Group (LRRG), is calling for all river stakeholders – including water companies, businesses, regulators, industry and the public – to invest in ending all sewage pollution and the management of land and surface water as a system (‘catchment-based management’) to deliver healthy rivers.
 
Funders need to see the value of the multiple benefits that restoring our rivers can bring to the health of people and a variety of wildlife.
 
The organisers say that the above actions will also help river rewilding projects – initiatives which manage rivers to reinstate natural processes to restore biodiversity.

Monitoring river health

Organisers are also calling on citizens to get involved in citizen science projects to monitor the health of their rivers in order to gather evidence of the issues and opportunities for water quality improvements and physical rehabilitation to support local wildlife and communities.

‘A healthy river can better adjust to changes in the climate, providing refuge for species in extreme events, and enabling free movement of species. Even taking small actions can contribute to the river has a whole.’

DAVE WEBB
Chair of the LRRG and biodiversity specialist at the Environment Agency

Rewilding can involve simple actions such as adding woody material to a river or removing concrete and metal from its banks.

It can also mean giving rivers more space to flood over water meadows or creating new wetlands beside them.

It can even mean daylighting stretches of rivers – bringing buried rivers into the light once more.

London has examples of all of these, and the public will have a chance to participate in many walks and talks at sites where restoration projects have been carried out during London Rivers Week, while finding out how to spot, suggest and support new opportunities for improvements.

Rewilded waterways mapped

As part of the week and part of its key theme ‘Natural Recovery’, LRRG has revealed a map that shows all the river rewilded projects that have completed in London since 2000.

‘This has been a collaboration between Catchment Partnerships in London and Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL), providing a snapshot on where restoration can take place and details of the schemes that have been delivered.  
  
‘The map highlights the potential for 144 projects and over 36km of scheme which can be restored. This is a fantastic tool, to inspire the delivery of more restoration, to not only support the creation of new wild spaces, but to also bring wildlife to the heart of the city.’

DAVE WEBB
Chair of the LRRG and biodiversity specialist at the Environment Agency

On average, 3km per year of rivers and other waterways have been rewilded in the capital since 2000, but the LRRG has set an ambitious target to increase that rate to 5km by 2025. If that rate were achieved and maintained, about 33% of London’s 640km of rivers (about 400 miles) could be restored by 2050, a rise from the current 20%.

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