Why Rivers Matter


There are 200,000 kilometres of wildly varying waterways in the UK but do we understand their true value and the threats they face asks Graham Lawton recently writing in the “New Scientist”.

Stand by a river in the UK and you are in touch with the ancients—through Romans, Saxons and Vikings.
These rivers are part of the past and present. Yet they face an uncertain future.
Rivers are a defining feature of human settlements, exploited for millennia as a source of drinking water, food, irrigation, waste disposal, power, navigation, defence and even inspiration.
The UK has about1500 river systems with  a combined length of 200,000 kilometres, ranging from gushing upland headwaters to languid flood plain meanderers. They are extremely diverse in character.
Their most obvious benefit in the UK is the water they supply. All told 87 percent of the UK water supply comes from these sources.
The UK government estimates that about one in five water sources are depleted by over-abstraction which has knock-on effects on river health.
In much of the UK it isn’t a happy tale.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland have no rivers considered to be in high ecological health according to criteria laid down in the four nations’ Water Framework Directives: only 14 percent are good. The rest are moderate, poor or bad.
None is in a good state in terms of chemical pollution and none is is in good health overall. In Scotland, just 8 percent of rivers are in high ecological health.
A Scottish salmon river. Only 8 percent of Scottish 
rivers are in high ecological health
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1 Response to Why Rivers Matter

  1. Frank Henry says:

    I suspect NZ rivers wouldn’t fare much better?
    There appears no monitoring here with elected councils failing in their responsibility. In fact, councils have openly admitted their ‘system’ of monitoring consists of relying on complaints from the public.

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