We’ve had an inspiring and thought-provoking couple of days at The Rivers Trust's Spring Conference. Despite the trials ahead of us, the conference has made me more optimistic that we have the collective will to meet the huge challenges facing the environmental water management sector.
We had an incredible range of contributions, from grassroots swimming groups, to researchers, regulators, water companies, investment bankers and poets! We were inspired by the great work being done on the ground to help rivers recover, and moved by poetry which spoke to all of us in a way that graphs and data can’t.
As well as speaking to those who are on the same page as us, it’s important that we hear from those we don’t always agree with. We sit on opposite sides of the table with water companies on many issues, and have worked hard to hold them to account and bring a better understanding of what’s happening into the public and political consciousness. However, we are in the business of finding solutions to the crisis facing our rivers. All solutions will need to involve water companies as a key player because of the central role they play in the sector, so we must work in partnership with them if we are to succeed.
We should celebrate the success we have achieved in the environmental movement over the past few years. I cannot remember a time in my entire career when river health was so far up the political agenda or there was as much appetite among decision-makers for fundamental change in approach. We are living through a paradigm shift—one which we hope has only just begun.
Over the next few years, we’ll be focusing on better data and transparency, good governance, land use, the planning bill, and on the mainstreaming of nature-based solutions. I hope that you will support us with this hefty agenda, which we think delivers on the radical rethink for rivers we called for in the State of Our Rivers report last year.