WWF UK Blog  

Celebrating World Rivers Day


Rowing is an athletic sport that is perhaps the closest to nature among all Olympic sports. It’s not really a surprise as rivers will attract wildlife quicker than any other ecosystem. Tarmac’d roads, rubberised tracks, or manicured pitches are hard to diversify.

However at the same time we’re not dependent on nature, after all we only need water. This puts us rowers right on top of using water courses that could be badly polluted. Just look at the busiest section of river in the UK, the Tideway, and its major pollution problems.

It’s very easy to overestimate how healthy our idyllic rivers are, with their over-hanging trees, and river side park lands. However, did you know that only 17% of English rivers are classified as healthy?

Are we rowers blissfully unaware of the true state of our rivers, or do we know and just feel dis-empowered to do something about it? Well it’s time to change all that!

Water Vole, UK. Copyright: Graham CannyWater Vole, UK. One of the many animals that rely on our rivers for survival. © Graham Canny

World Rivers Day

World Rivers Day, celebrated on the last Sunday of September, gives us a chance to celebrate our rivers, to champion the clean ones and raise concerns over the poor ones. It’s a great chance to learn more about your local river. Is it healthy? What nature does it support? What’s going on beneath the surface?

Of course there is a twitter hashtag, #riversday15, so show how you’re using your river – whether it’s you in a boat, organising river clean ups with friends, or even taking a dip! It’s up to you to show everyone how important your river is to you.

I’ll be tweeting away and continuing to do my bit to lobby awareness of the state of our rivers. I’m excited to see how the messages are creeping farther and wider than ever before, because it is important, and it is our duty.

Our rivers are delicate ecosystems, and after hundreds of years of neglect we’re starting to understand the impact we’ve had and therefore the opportunity we now have. Rowing, as an Olympic sport, can show how much can be done to help our environment.

The crystal clear waters of the River Itchen near Ovington Hampshire, UK © Andrew Parkinson/WWF-UKThe crystal clear waters of the River Itchen near Ovington, Hampshire, UK © Andrew Parkinson/WWF-UK

Our rivers help make the British landscape picturesque and vibrant with wildlife as well as supplying a lot of our freshwater. WWF’s freshwater programme promotes the protection and restoration of rivers here at home through projects like WaterLIFE, as well as across the world, from the Ganges to the Yangtze.

Getting behind this work will help us come together and make a real impact on our water ways, working with all water users and doing our bit.

So next time you’re out on the water, spare a thought for the water below your shell. Is it really healthy? Or is there something we could be doing to make sure it’s fit for nature too.

Let us know if you are celebrating World Rivers Day on Sunday.

Andy will soon be launching a new rowing event that brings together Clean Sport and Clean Water. Learn more about this project, Ro, which kicks off with a test event on 11th October.  

You can also follow Andy on twitter @AndrewTHodge. 

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