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  • Writer's pictureTallulah

What is Waterway Management?

With daily use canals, waterways, and the surrounding paths and fences are subject to normal wear and tear. Waterway maintenance is therefore a necessary part of waterway management. Without waterway repairs, problems for canals and rivers arise.


Why do we need Waterway Management?


Waterways management involves regular waterways maintenance and occasional waterways repair. For example, unless we put in place erosion control, pathways bordering a canal could end up sliding into the water. In turn, this could place boaters and towpath users at risk.


Along with the structural issues related to waterways maintenance, there is the natural environment to consider. Invasive weeds overtake canals and rivers, making them unpleasant and unsafe. They can also deprive native animal and plant species from vital oxygen and sunlight.


Part of waterway management is long-term planning for routine waterway maintenance and responding to the unexpected. Major storms or boating accidents can cause damage to waterways. Waterway repairs need to happen quickly to ensure the safety of all who use the canals and rivers. But waterway management is not limited to this – it also involves towpaths, fences, and canal lock upkeep.


Who is Responsible for Waterways Management?

The responsibility for waterway management falls to the Canal & River Trust. They use The Rothen Group to advise on and carry-out waterways maintenance and waterways repair.

For example, after heavy rainfall, a section of canal bank slipped into the canal. We used one of our marine ready excavators to remove the obstruction. This allowed for the building of a new canal wall.

How are Waterways Managed?


One important part of waterways management is organising dredging. This is a part of regular waterways maintenance and involves specialised equipment like crane barges. Dredging is when we remove debris, overgrown vegetation, and buildups of sediment from canals and rivers. Without proper dredging, waterways can flood or become damaged, leading to potentially costly waterway repairs.


Restoration is another vital part of waterway management. The history of canals and rivers in the UK goes back to the Bridgewater Canal which opened in 1761. Restoration of historic canals represents important work that requires yet more specialised equipment and training. Air hammers are necessary for driving pile sections and fencing posts, while avoiding vibrations that could damage nearby structures.

Restoring older parts of waterways helps to prevent damage and the need for waterway repair later on. It also can improve the look of a bankside as we let in more natural light by clearing scrub. This makes the area safer and more pleasant for visitors.

Weeds and litter


Another part of waterways management is the removal of weeds and litter. This is often completed at the same time as dredging. Some litter sinks to the bottom of the river or canal and gets scooped up by our dredging machines. Weeds can catch on to litter, causing waterways to become clogged, especially at chokepoints like under bridges.

There are several types of weeds that we remove during waterway maintenance. Some weeds float on the surface of canals and rivers, creating a blanket that can appear solid. These weed blankets are thick enough to stop light from penetrating to lower plants.


The carpeting appearance of surface weeds can give the appearance of a solid surface. This presents a danger to dogs and young children stepping onto the surface only to fall into the water. These weeds are removed using aquatic cutters. These can be part of an amphibious model, or a boat that floats on the surface.

Weeds can grow below the surface too, and these are removed by underwater cutters. These cutters cut the weeds as close to the bottom as possible, and then collect the strands in weed baskets. Waterways maintenance requires several approaches such as this to keep weeds in check, and keep canals and rivers usable for boaters.

Some of the machines used to remove weeds resemble treadmills or conveyor belts. They move the weeds to a container which is then removed while the water falls back into the waterway. Other machines work similar to a normal garden rake, except much bigger. They drag weeds out of the water, to later be disposed of permanently.

Waterway management is a complicated task that uses special machines, a lot of organising, and hard work. At The Rothen Group, we are able to do the much needed work of waterways maintenance thanks to our years of expertise. We are able to respond to unexpected damage thanks to our fantastic team and our fleet of specialised equipment.

For more information regarding UK canal restoration and waterways management, please visit The Rothen Group.




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