Underwater photo with hand reaching towards reeds in the water

State of Our Rivers will be won or lost on rivers — and right now, we’re losing.

Today we’ve published our State of Our Rivers Report, which allows the English public to understand the health of their river like never before, on both a national and local scale.

Jayne Mann


The Rivers Trust has today published its State of Our Rivers Report, which allows the English public to understand the health of their river like never before, on both a national and local scale. The report gives one clear message: the race to climate resilience will be won or lost on rivers – and right now we’re losing.

  • Agriculture and the water sector are the biggest offenders – causing rivers to fail their bill of health
  • With no significant improvements in the last 5 years our rivers are flatlining – we need a radical rethink and we’re running out of time.
  • Nature holds the key – investment in Nature Based Solutions is waiting for government guidance to scale up
  • The future of rivers is in all of our hands, with calls to action for government, businesses, and households

Rivers are on the frontlines of our Nature and Climate emergencies, and a radical rethink with proven nature-based solutions could strengthen them to weather the storms ahead. Action to improve river health must be taken quickly; it must be joined-up and at scale.

Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust, said: “Our report makes it clearer than ever that we may be winning small battles to protect our rivers, but we are losing the war. The trend of incremental, disjointed improvements which treat vital habitats as an afterthought must change. We need more robust legislation, greater investment, and to embrace nature-based solutions to turn the tide towards river recovery.

“Cleaning up rivers won’t be easy. Their current state is the result of hundreds of years of impacts, with many still suffering the consequences of our industrial past, and the age of coal-fired power. But this does not mean we lose hope. It means we act now to save rivers for future generations.”

England’s rivers, including 85% of the world’s precious chalk streams, are widely agreed to be a national treasure, yet only 14% are in good ecological health, and every single one fails to meet chemical standards. Of these failing rivers, agriculture impacts nearly two thirds (2,296 river water bodies); the water sector impacts over a half (2,032 river water bodies); and the urban and transport sector a quarter. Pollution is not the only problem, though, as abstraction and habitat destruction also put the future of rivers in jeopardy.

For the first time, this report enables the public to see localised data on the various impacts facing England’s rivers, giving them the information and evidence to take back rivers and hold polluters and government to account.

The report has been put together using The Rivers Trust’s unique combination of scientific expertise and connections with environmental stakeholders. A comprehensive collection of data, previously only used by water scientists and government departments, has been transformed into a suite of interactive maps, bespoke infographics, and an animation, visualising the reality of river health for the whole of England. The official launch event will feature key political and environmental stakeholders.

Charles Watson, Founder and Chairman of River Action UK, who will be speaking at the launch event, said: “State Of Our Rivers” finally provides us with a highly accessible and comprehensive documentation of the environmental status of all our river catchments. This offers a perfect potential reference point from which activists can campaign to bring river polluters to book - and for the Nation’s growing army of citizen scientists, who need to compare their results. Hopefully the next edition will realise one of the calls to action here – being able to include more invaluable data local groups are collating each day on water quality and river health.”

World Champion and Olympic medal-winning open water swimmer Keri-anne Payne added: “This report is going to be a game changer for open water river swimming, not only to get a sense of how bad the state of our rivers is but more importantly what we can do NOW about it as individuals, businesses and water lovers”.

Read the report

Head over to the report to learn more about the many factors impacting our freshwater habitats.

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