River water up close

River ecological health

How healthy are rivers in England?

Under the Water Framework Directive, a river's ecological health can be classed as High, Good, Moderate, Poor or Bad. In an ideal world, we'd like to see every river achieving at least 'Good' status... but this couldn't be further from the truth.

  • 14% of rivers pass good ecological health
  • No rivers pass good chemical health
  • No rivers pass good overall health

What does this mean for my local river?

This map shows the range of Ecological health in rivers around England.

Zoom in and find out what’s happening on your river.

Map legend

What makes an ecologically healthy river?

Biological quality

This measures if the river supports healthy, diverse communities of plants and wildlife. Less than 1/3 of our river waterbodies in England are currently supporting healthy communities of plants and wildlife.

Physico-chemical quality

These include physical and some chemical properties of the water in a river. 39% of rivers have good indicators of physico-chemical quality but more than half of our rivers, 57%, fail.

Specific pollutants

This assesses rivers contaminated with substances that can have a harmful effect on biological quality. Only a small proportion (3%) of rivers are failing this indicator. But worryingly, 58% of river water bodies haven't been assessed for specific pollutants, so we have a low level of confidence in this.

Supporting Elements

There are a number of other supporting elements which are not assessed for all waterbodies, but which can help inform the health assessment and pin down the issues impacting on overall health. To explore these please visit the Environment Agency's Catchment Data Explorer.

Want to find out more about river health?

The State of Our Rivers report is a comprehensive examination of the threats rivers are facing, and what we can do to save them.

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