On Tuesday 15th November, we were proud to welcome over 80 guests to the iconic Museum of Liverpool, as we hosted Future Rivers Forum, in partnership with United Utilities.
The event, hosted by former BBC Environment Editor Roger Harrabin, was an open forum for industry and environment leaders across the North West. Attendees came together to share challenges, develop ideas, and create solutions to help drive a better future for our rivers so that together, we can make a difference.
Alongside our own Chief Executive, Mark Lloyd, we heard from Mark Garth, Director of Wastewater Treatment at United Utilities, and other voices from across the North West. Representatives of community groups, landowners, and organisations like Mersey Rivers Trust, Liverpool City Council, and Natural England shared how they have taken action and the lessons they have learnt along the way.
It was a day full of inspiration and positive action for the future of our rivers. Here are just a few of our key takeaways.
Rivers are on the frontline of the climate crisis
Climate change is a looming issue in our world and the societies that we co-exist in. Our rivers are especially vulnerable, and the biggest impacts of climate change on rivers this will be flood and drought. Flow quality and habitat are all related, so for the sake of our wildlife, we must take the climate crisis seriously and place river health at the forefront. Putting nature firmly on the decision-making map will create invaluable benefits for our environment.
Collaboration is key!
There was a common thread in each of the speaker talks that resonated with every guest. As United Utilities Director of Wastewater Treatment explained, collaboration can take many forms and manifestations and is at the heart of improving our rivers’ health. It’s our collective resilience that will lead change, as South Cumbria Rivers Trust’s Jayne Wilkinson put it: “communities are at the heart of these issues and if we’re going to implement change at scale, we need the backing of them”.
We need to focus more on nature-based solutions
Nature-based solutions are a shift in thinking. Though they are much less certain in terms of proven outcome, we must unlock their potential to tackle the challenges that we currently face, such as funding and accessing resources to drive environmental improvement. Nature-based solutions are a clear pathway to overcoming barriers to good ecological status.
Longevity of partnerships matters
The Environment Agency and Nature North Partnership’s Josie Martin spoke on how tackling river issues cannot be done in isolation. Cross-sector partnerships at every scale are vital to building tangible solutions that everyone can get behind, and so we need to target industries that don’t naturally have a vested interest in rivers to lend a helping hand. We all have varying expertise, and the outcome of these long-term partnerships can only ensure that these complex issues become easier to understand and tackle.
We all have a part to play
It’s important to note that we are all responsible for taking care of our rivers and it is the small everyday acts that will help drive this change. Mark Lloyd pointed out that whilst the role of water companies has been most prominently highlighted, we are ultimately all to blame. From the way we dispose of wipes, to the disposal of oil down sinks, if we all make a conscious effort to make better, healthier choices, we will see a positive improvement in our natural environment.
What we know for sure is that rivers are the lifeblood of the North West, providing habitats for wildlife and enhancing our surroundings, but flooding, climate change, pollution, and even water scarcity threaten to damage them beyond repair. As organisations and as individuals, we all have a role to play to help protect, improve and strengthen the health of our rivers.