The Rivers Trust launches manifesto for healthy rivers ahead of Northern Ireland council elections

The Rivers Trust, a leading environmental charity dedicated to protecting and improving Northern Ireland, Ireland and Great Britain’s rivers and waterways, has published a manifesto for healthy rivers ahead of the upcoming Northern Ireland council elections on May 18.

Matthew Woodard



There are currently seven Rivers Trusts established in Northern Ireland, including Ballinderry Rivers Trust, Lagan Rivers Trust, Erne Rivers Trust, Strule Rivers Trust, River Blackwater Catchment Trust, River Blackwater Catchment Trust, Six Mile Water Rivers Trust, and Dibney Rivers Trust.

All-Ireland Director of The Rivers Trust Mark Horton said: “We are urging the electorate of Northern Ireland to vote for rivers at the upcoming local council elections. Our rivers are dying due to a lack of stewardship, future planning, and adequate legal protections. They are in serious trouble now and facing increasing future threats.

“In 2021, the Water Framework Directive Statistics Report revealed that none of Northern Ireland’s 496 rivers, lakes and coastal waters achieved a ‘good overall status’ rating for water quality. As usage and pollution pressures on our waterscape increase, we must urgently address the legacy of decades of neglect and now work proactively to value and save these precious natural resources.

“When rivers thrive, so do local communities. Water is fundamental to the survival of every living thing, including us. But our local waterscapes are under threat due to pollution, abstraction, modification, and historic under-investment. It’s only by working together as a society that we can restore and protect our rivers, which are fundamental to health, well-being, biodiversity and the development of our economy and the built environment.

“Local councils in Northern Ireland have a key role to play in protecting and improving river health in their districts. That is why The Rivers Trust wants to bring its expertise and experience to work with local councils to support water-friendly policies and actions.”

The Rivers Trust manifesto sets out a clear vision for the future of Northern Ireland’s rivers, loughs, lakes, and waterways, highlighting the urgent need for action to protect and restore them. The manifesto focuses on five key areas:

  1. Pollution Reduction: The Rivers Trust is calling for a reduction in all forms of pollution, including agricultural and industrial runoff, sewage discharges, and plastic waste.
  2. Habitat Restoration: The Rivers Trust is advocating for the restoration of river habitats, including the planting of native species, the removal of invasive species, and the creation of new wetlands.
  3. Water Conservation: The manifesto highlights the importance of water conservation, including reducing water consumption and promoting sustainable water management practices.
  4. Flood Management: The Rivers Trust is calling for better flood management strategies, including the restoration of natural floodplains, the use of sustainable drainage systems, and the adoption of green infrastructure.
  5. Community Engagement: The manifesto emphasises the importance of community engagement in protecting and improving our rivers and waterways, including raising awareness of the issues and involving local people in conservation efforts.

“Therefore, we hope our new crop of incumbent councillors will take time to read our manifesto and engage with The Rivers Trust for direction and advice. We also hope voters will find the document informative in helping them interrogate canvassing candidates about their water quality priorities and hold to account those subsequently elected for their future actions.”

Mark concluded: “The Rivers Trust is urging all candidates in the upcoming Northern Ireland council elections and voters alike to prioritise the health of our rivers and waterways. By acting on the issues outlined in our manifesto, local councils and citizens can play a crucial role in protecting and improving the health of our environment. By doing so, we can ensure a healthier, more sustainable future for all."

Download the manifesto below.

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