Response to general election manifestos – #VoteForRivers

As party manifestos start to be shared this week, what should you be looking out for if you’re interested in river health?

Emma Brisdion

10/06/24

News

As manifestos start to be shared this week, political parties are setting out what changes they would make if they won the upcoming general election. It can be tricky to cut through all the noise to get to the information you’re interested in – for many of us, the health of the environment and rivers are key issues this election.

So, what should you be looking out for in the manifestos if you’re interested in river health? We’ll be looking for some of these key phrases, and you can, too:

  • Nature-based solutions
  • Nature recovery
  • Freshwater biodiversity
  • Environmental regulation & monitoring
  • Citizen science
  • Catchment based approach
  • Climate resilience

We need healthy rivers to help us tackle the climate and nature crises, support our households and businesses, and boost community health and wellbeing. That is why The Rivers Trust is clear that improving the state of our rivers must be a priority for the new government. We have set out our four key asks for the new government and will be looking for signs of these in the manifestos:

1. Prioritise nature recovery

Make nature-based solutions like trees and wetlands to improve the environment and tackle climate change the first choice, rather than relying on chemicals and concrete.

  • Nature recovery, including healthy rivers, will help us become more resilient to climate change by reducing flood and drought risk, improve water quality, boost physical and mental wellbeing, support biodiversity and much more.
  • Nature-based solutions are less carbon hungry and often more cost-effective than traditional concrete or grey infrastructure.
  • Nature-based solutions must be mainstreamed across all sectors, e.g. water industry, farming, housing development, and must be supported by regulators.

2. Improve our understanding of the state of our rivers

Support better data and evidence to improve regulatory monitoring and recognise the value of citizen science alongside it

  • It is essential that we know what’s going on with our rivers so that we can target action where it is needed and make a positive difference.
  • Monitoring needs to be strengthened to cover the full range of stressors so that we have a clear picture of all the polluters and issues affecting our rivers.
  • Citizen science can play an important role in supporting monitoring by regulators, but work needs to be done to standardise and coordinate this data.

3. Make polluters pay

Drive strong enforcement of those who pollute to turn the tide on the abuse of our rivers

  • Polluting water companies, farm businesses, chemical manufacturers, developers and more have been getting away with causing havoc on our environment and rivers.
  • Funding for the Environment Agency has been cut in half over the last decade, leaving them unable to properly do their job; this funding must be restored to pay for more on-the-ground inspections and enforcement action.
  • We need a Chemicals Strategy that tackles all sources of chemical pollution, including those that largely go under the radar like road run-off, to prevent further damage to our freshwater habitats.

4. Manage land with water in mind

Empower collaborative working that gets everyone involved in restoring our rivers.

  • Everything we do on land affects the health of our waterways; we take water from our rivers for our households and businesses, pollution from buildings, roads and farms ends up in our rivers, and our rivers are squeezed by our use of the land with no wiggle room.
  • We need to be better neighbours to our rivers, working from source to sea to change the way we manage our land; we need to reduce our use of pesticides, protect the health of our soils, make our cities greener so they soak up rainwater, and give our rivers more space so plants and wildlife can flourish.
  • Everyone needs to be involved in collaborating to improve river health, as it will take all of us working together to truly transform the state of our rivers.

Manifestos are one of the main ways that you can find out about where each party stands on the issues that matter to you – you can find these on each party’s website. However, there are other opportunities to hear more and dig deeper, for example, election debates, local hustings events and candidate doorstep visits. This election, the Big Nature & Climate Debate is taking place on 17th June; this will be a key moment for us to all learn about how parties will stand up for nature.

Actions you can take:

  • Speak to your candidates - on the doorstep, on social media or by email. We have drafted a template for you to use at the bottom of this page.
  • On the doorstep, ask them these five questions and challenge them on their plans for rivers:
A graphic displaying five questions to ask candidates
  • Join us in London on 22nd June for the #RestoreNatureNow march to Parliament
  • Speak to your friends, family and networks, and use #VoteForRivers
  • Download our campaign assets to share on social media, and visit @theriverstrust to share our posts and amplify the message further
  • Invite your organisation to be part of #VoteForRivers, get in touch with [email protected] to register your support and add your logo to the campaign supporters page

Thank you for supporting the restoration of our blue spaces and being part of #VoteForRivers.


Use our email template

Dear [Candidate name],

I will be voting for rivers in the General Election on 4th July 2024 and, as a local resident and voter, need to know how you intend to stand up for our waterways.

The Rivers Trust’s State of Our Rivers Report 2024 lays bare the dire health of our waterways, which are facing devastating levels of pollution, swinging between extremes of flood and drought, and experiencing shocking drops in biodiversity:

  • 0% of stretches of river in England are in good or high overall health.
  • 0% of stretches of river in Northern Ireland are in good overall health.
  • 44% of Wales’s river stretches achieve at least good overall status.
  • 57.2% of Scotland’s river stretches are in good or better overall condition.

This is not breaking news – the issues faced by our rivers have been hitting the headlines for years and causing widespread public outcry. Yet not enough is being done to restore or protect our waterways.

Healthy rivers should be a priority for the next Government. From re-wiggling rivers, restoring floodplains, and greening our urban spaces, restoring our rivers means securing community resilience, a future for wildlife, and action for climate.

This is why I am supporting The Rivers Trust’s 4 asks for political candidates and parties:

  • Prioritise nature recovery – make nature-based solutions like trees and wetlands to improve the environment and tackle climate change first choice, rather than relying on chemicals and concrete.
  • Improve our understanding of rivers – support better data and evidence to improve regulatory monitoring and recognise the value of citizen science alongside it.
  • Make polluters pay – drive strong enforcement of those who pollute to turn the tide on the abuse of our rivers.
  • Manage land with water in mind – empower collaborative working that gets everyone involved in restoring our rivers.

Please let me know what actions you and your party intend to take to deliver the asks above and restore the health of our waterways.

I look forward to hearing from you and, if possible, please copy [email protected] in your reply.

Yours sincerely,

[Sender name]

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