'Think like a river' – Institute of Water Environment Conference review

May 31, 2022

The Professional Engineering Institution, the Institute of Water, held a ‘Cry Me a River’ Environment Conference to highlight why our freshwater environment is in such a poor state. Professor Ian Barker, vice president environment and conference host, has written a review on the conference.

“If you could ask a river what it thinks about what the human race is doing to it the answer is likely to be pretty damning.

“Every river in England is polluted and fails on chemical standards. Those in the rest of the UK are a little better, but not by much. Only a tiny fraction of our rivers flow unimpeded: the overwhelming majority are interrupted by dams, weirs or locks for navigation. River channels are straightened, funnelled between flood banks or encased into concrete culverts. So it’s no wonder that even the most important rivers designated for nature conservation are suffering. In England, 89.7% of all riverine SSSIs are in unfavourable status. In Wales it’s 60%, and 36% in Northern Ireland. Across the UK we’ve lost 90% of our wetland habitats over the past 100 years.

“At the Institute of Water’s Environment Conference ('Cry me a river') at the end of May we heard why our freshwater environment is in such a poor state. Sewage pollution coats river beds in fungus, adds nutrients that cause algal blooms (pictured) in some of our most iconic rivers, and inputs pathogens that can affect the health of swimmers and canoeists.”

Read the full opinion piece on the Institute of Water’s website.

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