A message from Dr. Laurence Couldrick, CEO of the Westcountry Rivers Trust.

Our regional rivers across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset are the ‘veins’ of our landscapes, with water the ‘blood’ that fuels our lives, work and play. 

At Westcountry Rivers Trust we have steadfastly worked to protect and restore the region’s water environments for more than 25 years.

But with easy access to this vital natural resource, our rivers, and their value to society, can often be overlooked.

Following last week’s disheartening Environment Agency’s water quality tests showing none of England’s rivers are in good overall health you may think there isn’t much to celebrate on this Sunday’s World Rivers Day.

But now is the time, more than ever, to encourage everyone in the Westcountry (and beyond) to look to the riverbank and join us in taking care of our ‘lifeblood’.

Our charity has numerous opportunities for people to wade in for water, including our amazing Westcountry CSI collective of citizen scientists who help us monitor local waterways, our Plymouth River Keepers project working with communities north west of the city to improve nature on their doorsteps, our cross border Preventing Plastic Pollution EU-funded project that seeks to stop plastics entering our rivers at source, or our #BeWatertight Challenge that helps people improve their water usage.

We also work closely with businesses, the farming community and water companies through project such as our Tamar Water Stewardship Business Board whereby companies in the catchment work to secure best practice for water quality across their supply chains; our third phase of our Upstream Thinking scheme with South West Water and partners to secure positive water quality and biodiversity outcomes; and our Devon and Cornwall Soils Alliance because healthy soils also means healthy water.

Only last year, just a few of our achievements included improving the habitat of 90km rivers; removing or easing 16 man-made barriers or trash dams to help fish better access spawning grounds; planting more than 365 trees to improve water quality, habitat and carbon capture; and engaging more than one thousand schoolchildren in water-related events to inspire a love of rivers and their ecosystem.

Our national river movement body, The Rivers Trust, is looking at issues such as whether government would be prepared to invest on a HS2-scale to modernise our drainage and sewerage systems, how polluters will be properly regulated and what public goods we should expect in return for farm payments. We will work closely with them to ensure our region is represented in national decision-making.

So, despite the on-going challenges we face, through education, collaboration, and the nurturing of a communal desire to look after the water that keeps us alive, there is still much to celebrate on World Rivers Day.