Over the summer I went kayaking with my sister on the River Wye (Afon Gwy in Welsh). We were trying out a new inflatable kayak. As complete beginners we were taken back both physically and metaphorically by the strength of the current, taking all our effort to make progress paddling upstream. This was one shock and a protective mother swan was another fright, but it turns out something scarier was lurking in the water that we were blissfully unaware of.
The Rivers Trust does great work bringing to light the issue of sewage entering out rivers. Using the interactive map created by the Rivers Trust, I explored the river we had been kayaking on. I found multiple locations of overflows less than 5km upstream. These storm overflows occurred over 150 times in 2020 in a couple of locations just upstream from where we went kayaking. I was glad the boat hadn’t capsized after seeing this! Really makes you worry for what people swimming in the rivers and natural ecosystems are being exposed to beneath the surface.
I would recommend exploring the State of Our Rivers report created by the Rivers Trust this year. It was really interesting researching a local river, particularly one I had recently been to. I thought the standout word in the whole report was ‘our’. A short, simple word but that is exactly what they are. They are OUR rivers and we need to start taking proper care and responsibility over their health – we will all benefit from it.
I realise that this has been a pretty negative blog so far, and so I’d like to end it on some positives that I hope may inspire us! Thanks to everyone’s actions, The Environment Act which came out at the end of last year is now much stronger on sewage pollution than it was 12 months ago. It looks like the health of our rivers is finally starting to be taken seriously, with serious penalties and fines handed to water companies for damaging the environment. Let’s hope that by holding those who discharge sewage accountable we will see progression towards cleaner healthier rivers that we can all enjoy!