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Community river campaigns

Last updated: 7 January 2013.

Teigngrace two rivers campaign, 1997

River campaigns in the UK and Ireland

The UK Rivers Network is not currently running any active campaigns, but you might like to browse these campaigns being run by other groups.

Here are some examples of the kinds of campaigns we welcome on this page:

We'd really appreciate your help in keeping this page up-to-date, so please tell us of any other campaigns you know about by posting a message on our Facebook page.

National campaigns

Our Rivers - Make Rivers a Priority for Government's Water Agenda

"The Our Rivers campaign is led by WWF-UK, RSPB, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association, although its strength comes from its roots – over two thousand Our Rivers supporters and the wealth of knowledge that exists within local river networks.

This summer the Government will publish its White Paper on Water. This is an important opportunity for the coalition to set out its priorities for safeguarding the health of our rivers and protecting freshwater wildlife for the future. We believe the Government must include two key commitments in this Water White Paper in order to protect our rivers. These are to:

  1. Set out a clear timetable to restore the flow of our rivers and end unsustainable levels of abstraction, with action in the 2015-2020 water company investment period.
  2. Reduce the impact of agricultural diffuse pollution on rivers and wetlands by ensuring more effective enforcement of environmental regulations, encouraging water companies to work with farmers to reduce pollution of drinking water sources, and by changing farming policy to reward land managers who deliver public benefits - including clean rivers and thriving wildlife.

Many voices are harder to ignore, so we are asking all river supporters to write to the Minister responsible for water, Richard Benyon, asking him to safeguard our rivers for the future. It’s easy to do and only takes a few minutes – ACT NOW SEND A LETTER TO THE MINISTER – visit"

Find out more: Our Rivers.

Rivers Access Campaign

"In England and Wales, unlike elsewhere in the world, the public cannot assume there is an automatic right to have access to rivers. People are incredulous when they are made aware of this situation. The campaign is to secure this right as a matter of public interest. In the UK, Scotland already enjoys that right.

Research has revealed that prior to 1830, it was generally accepted the public had a historical right of access to rivers. Legal opinions since have continued to diminish this position and created a lack of clarity for such a right.

The campaign is not just for canoeists. It is for all members of the public who share the view that a legal right for access to and along water would provide enormous recreational, educational and economic opportunities. A right of access will provide certainty for the future of water related sport and recreation. The campaign has gained support from many interest groups and organisations who seek more access to enjoy the natural water environment–swimmers, anglers, walkers etc."

You can find out more from the Rivers Access Campaign (A campaign funded by Canoe England to raise awareness of the access issue on inland waterways in England (and Wales) and to bring about a change to the access situation.) and from a related website called Rivers Access For All. Some years ago, George Monbiot wrote a good article about the absurdities of current river access legislation that's worth a look. If you'd like to read an opposing viewpoint, check out the Angling Trust: "We believe that all boats should be registered, with that registration visible, and licensed and that they should pay to use rivers. We support voluntary access agreements which control the use of waterways for navigation so that no damage is caused to the natural environment and no conflict arises between boaters and other users."

Swimming in lakes and rivers

The UK Rivers Network has long supported people campaigning to make it easier for people to swim outdoors. We fully acknowledge the safety risks of swimming in rivers and lakes, of course, but that doesn't mean people should only be allowed to swim in nasty chlorinated indoor pools. The key is to provide good quality information explaining to people exactly where and when it is safe to swim out of doors by properly designating more official "bathing waters", as required by European legislation. Find out more from the River and Lake Swimming Association and the Outdoor Swimming Society.

The End of the Line

Charles Clover's campaign against irresponsible seafood fishing began with an excellent book and has now become a film. Find out more at The End of the Line.

Surfers Against Sewage: Protect our Waves

"The Protect Our Waves (POW) campaign officially expands SAS's campaign remit to encompass important issues close to the heart of all surfers and waveriders - protecting waves. Behind the scenes SAS has been consistently representing surfers and waveriders on rights of access, and ensuring the wave resource is recognised and valued. The POW campaign will ensure that the full force of the SAS campaign team can be thrown at issues threatening waves." SAS have been active on inland pollution issues and keeping water clean for all recreational water users (not just surfers) for many years.

Plantlife: Invasive non-native plants campaign

According to Plantlife, the wild-plant conservation charity, "Whether you are interested in the environment or not, the problems caused by non-native invasive plants affect us all." Their Invasive non-native plants campaign is an attempt to tackle invasive plants by getting anglers, gardeners, and others to help survey the problem.

Marine Conservation Society: Don't Let Go campaign

Long-term followers of our website will know we've been campaigning against balloon releases for more than a decade: see the balloon fact sheet and Up, up, and away leaflet in our education section for a quick briefing. The Marine Conservation Society have been active on the issue for even longer. Don't Let Go is the name of their current anti-balloon campaign. They have some great campaigning and publicity material to help spread the word that mass balloon releases can have a major impact on wildlife. Think of balloons as litter fired into the sky, bound to return to Earth, and you'll be along the right lines.

The Big Tidy Up

"If you hate litter and would like to do something positive to help keep your local area clean and tidy, why not join the Big Tidy Up campaign? The Big Tidy Up (organized by Keep Britain Tidy) aims to get every one out on the streets cleaning up their corner of the community in the country’s biggest ever litter pick. Thousands of people across the country are already taking part to clean up their patch but we need you to do your bit and help make this the biggest tidy up ever!" Taking appropriate precautions, you could clean-up river banks or rivers too.

Regional and local campaigns


Love the Lea!

One of London's lesser-known rivers, the Lea has been saved from a dark and dirty fate by a huge amount of community work in recent years. Thames 21 continues to lead the charge with its excellent Love the Lea campaign.

Save Our Severn (Severnside)

Save Our Severn is a campaign against the re-emergence of plans to build a tidal-energy barrage across the River Severn. "There's a widely-held view that, to extract power from the Severn Estuary, you don't have a choice: you have to build a large-scale barrage such as the Cardiff-Weston or the Shoots Barrage. If the environmental cost is catastrophic, it's too bad... we have to make sacrifices. But we don't. There are superior, lower impact alternatives that can do the same job, without the environmental damage."

Stop the Barrage Now (Severnside)

Also campaigning on the Severn Barrage, Stop the Barrage Now a coalition of groups including the UK and Welsh Green Parties, the Severn Rivers Trust, and the Salmon & Trout Association. According to their website: "Our aim is to make the Government rule out any Barrage across the Severn as it considers ways of harnessing the power of the estuary to generate renewable energy. We want to make it clear from the outset that this campaign is not against renewable energy, but against the Barrage, an inefficient and highly damaging option for harnessing the power of the Severn. The Stop the Barrage NOW campaign intends to halt any further discussion, consideration, or the continued waste of taxpayer's money of this proposal."

Save the Ribble (Lancashire)

Development plans for the Ribble have a habit of coming back again. Save the Ribble is an entertaining blog that follows the long-running campaign to preserve the beauty of the River Ribble, opposing the Riverworks 'vision' to build a barrage and develop on riverbanks, floodplains and green spaces, causing damage to wildlife and the environment and increasing the risk of flooding to local homes.

Save the Levels (Gwent)

CALM (Campaign Against the Levels Motorway) has been fighting the resurrection of plans to build a new toll motorway through the Gwent Levels in Wales, a wetland area of enormous wildlife importance close to the internationally important Severn Estuary and River Usk. This plan was finally defeated in July 2009 and CALM is now promoting more sustainable alternatives.


Save the Garry (Perthshire)

"The River Garry has been destroyed in the quest for power. It was wholly sacrificed for the production of electricity. But now there is hope." Find out more: Save the Garry.


Campaign for the Protection of Welsh fisheries

"The aim of the Campaign is to seek the proper and adequate protection of all Welsh fisheries, be they situated in the seas around our coast, in the rivers and streams that flow into that sea or landlocked lakes and ponds. These fisheries are our inheritance and we are duty bound to see that they are passed on from generation to generation with abundant, healthy and well protected stock." Read more from the Campaign for the Protection of Welsh fisheries.

Gower Save our Sands

Save our Sands has been campaigning against dredging in the Gower for some years now. "Gower SOS Offshore dredging in the Bristol Channel from sand banks has removed over 100 Million tons of sand since the 1950's. The levels of sand on beaches is dropping, the fish stocks are getting less. Is there a connection? Does it affect me? Can I do something about it?" Follow progress on the Gower SOS blog.

UK Rivers Network recent position statements

The Rivers Network has issued occasional position statements on hot topics:

International campaigns

For the most up-to-date information about international river campaigns, take a look at:

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