Less than 20% of Europe’s rivers and floodplains remain in their natural state
Industrialisation, urbanisation and agricultural intensification, have all left their mark on our rivers and floodplains.
We have straightened, dammed, deepened, reinforced, diverted, embanked and culverted them. These changes have significantly altered the movement of water, sediment and species through our rivers damaging habitat, restricting fish migration, and causing problems with flooding, gravel management and erosion.
Straight engineered rivers move flood waters very quickly downstream increasing flood risk in towns and cities.
So what can be done to help restore our rivers?
Whilst we can’t return our rivers to a pristine state everywhere, there is more that can be done to improve our river habitats and protect our towns and cities using natural processes.
Restoring river-bends and floodplains, in the right places, can help to store and slow the flow of water downstream, reducing flood risk.
Natural meandering rivers provide more diverse habitats with pools, riffles, clean gravels, tree roots, wood and natural river banks, where wildlife can shelter and feed and plants can flourish.
Opening up forgotten urban rivers can offer opportunities for urban regeneration and recreation.
Removing weirs and dams, or where this is not possible, installing fish and eel passes reconnects river habitats allowing wildlife and sediments to move freely through the river system, reaching spawning grounds.
What are Rivers Trusts doing to help restore UK rivers?
Rivers trusts are in a unique position to combine their extensive local catchment knowledge, professional expertise and community contacts, to manage and deliver significant large-scale river restoration schemes throughout the country.
Wholly managed by The Rivers Trust and actioned by rivers trusts throughout the country, the River Improvement Fund Programme delivered the largest ever river improvement programme by an NGO in England, resulting in over 2,800 km of improved rivers.
We support to our member trusts in this delivery by developing guidance documentation and running practical river improvement workshops and technical courses on fish pass design and hydraulics, fluvial geomorphology and catchment management.
Watch a video about river restoration in Cumbria, below: