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UK’s ten ‘most improved’ rivers revealed

The Environment Agency has released a list of the ten ‘most improved’ rivers in England and Wales, demonstrating the success of efforts to clean up the country’s waterways. The list reflects the work the Agency has done in tandem with farmers, businesses and water companies to improve water quality and the river habitat for wildlife, and according to Ian Barker, head of land and water at the agency, leaves them in their healthiest state for 20 years.

The list of improved rivers includes London’s River Wandle, which was officially declared a sewer in the 1960s, and the River Nar in Norfolk and Kent’s River Darent.

The River Thames was also on the list, having been declared ‘biologically dead’ during the 1950s, and the River Taff in south Wales, which used to run deep black due to the amount of coal dust it carried but is now a leading venue for fishing competitions.

Another river which has been cleaned up through changing industrial processes is the River Stour in Worcestershire, which used to be famous for the rainbow colours disposed of in its waters by local carpet manufacturers.

However, it is not just changes made by industry that have helped the rivers on the ‘most improved’ list to recover their natural habitats and become once again a haven for wildlife. Along the River Darent in Kent local farming concerns are now taking 35 million litres fewer per day compared with 20 years ago, resulting in increased water flows and helping to sustain more wildlife.

The Environment Agency says that Britain’s rivers are now the healthiest they have been in 20 years. Ian Barker said the Agency still has improvements to make: “We have plans to transform a further 9,500 miles of rivers in England and Wales by 2015 – the equivalent of the distance between the UK and Australia.”

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Comments (2)

Hugh Norris on 9th September 2011

Good work. Keep it up! We must remember what we are handing over to our children and grand children!

Paul Kawachi on 9th October 2011

I was born and grew up beside the Thames and am really impressed by everything being done to improve the rivers – well done ! I am now in China. Bearing in mind the invested costs by Britain to clean up the rivers, I wonder whether the British Environment Agency couldn’t export their know-how to other countries – surely there are many countries that need and can afford to import such expertise.