How healthy are our rivers?

Jayne Mann


Only 14% of rivers in England are considered to be at Good Ecological Status within the Water Framework Directive. With so few reaching a good status, how much do you know about the industries that are having the most impact on your local river? Our dedicated data and evidence team have generated a Digital River, to help guide you through the different issues and sectors that are having the most impact on your river environment. Use the map to find your local river by zooming to where you live on the map or using the 'Search' tool to locate a place or postcode. Click here to view the map or see below:
So what is the Water Framework Directive? The Water Framework Directive is a European directive that monitors waterbodies for a range of issues, including pollution from chemicals and excess nutrients, as well as the health of wildlife communities such as plants and fish. Rivers are then rated as high, good, moderate, poor or bad status. Only the rivers that are described as 'good' or 'high' are in a sustainable and healthy condition; the rest all need a greater level of protection and management if they are to improve to a good level of health.
The factors that impact rivers are the following:
  • Industry
  • Urban and Transport
  • Agriculture
  • Water Industry
  • Mining and Quarrying
  • Other
Industry - The rivers affected by industry could be related to point sources (e.g. sewage discharge), flow issues (e.g. water abstractions) or physical modification of the river channel (e.g. weirs or other barriers).
Urban and Transport - The waterbodies not reaching good status due to issues caused by urban land-use and transport may be due to pollutants entering a watercourse via urban runoff, road drainage, or atmospheric deposition, for example. Urban and transport infrastructure often involves the physical modification of river channels, such as revetments or barriers, which can cause flow issues and habitat degradation.
Agriculture - This is generally due to diffuse sources of pollution, such as nutrient or sediment runoff. Agriculture can also cause flow issues due to drainage or abstractions and it can sometimes cause the physical modification of river channels.
Water Industry - This is usually related to point source pollution from sewage discharge outlets or flow issues related to abstractions for drinking water.
Mining and Quarrying - Active and abandoned mines can cause problems for river water quality due to exposed pollutants, such as heavy metals, being washed into local watercourses.
Other - In most cases, this is where the sector is currently unknown and is pending investigation. Other known sectors include 'domestic general public', 'local or central government', 'recreation' and 'navigation'. Click the river catchment to see more detail.
So, what can you do to help? With your support, we can continue to take vital action in protecting and improving rivers across the UK and Ireland for future generations.

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