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  • Writer's pictureTallulah

Who to contact if you spot a damaged or dangerous river in the UK?

In the UK, the responsibility for maintaining rivers falls to the owner. An individual can own a stretch of river if it runs on or underneath their land. If a river overlaps the boundary of a property, the land owner may be responsible for that too. For a lot of public rivers, it is the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency that have the responsibility for their maintenance.

There is no single organisation that is responsible for the management of every river, canal, and watercourse across the UK, instead the management falls to several organisations, businesses, charities, contractors, and the landowners themselves. This group approach helps to ensure a cohesive and comprehensive system is in operation throughout the UK.

River maintenance is necessary in order to manage flood risks, working with local authorities to keep people and property safe. At different times of year, the risk of flooding may increase, so flood defences must be put in place at canals and rivers. River contractors work with the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust. They ensure that river management and maintaining flood safety standards are kept a high priority.

The Canal & River Trust is a charity that works with companies like The Rothen Group (TRG) to make sure UK rivers are safe. TRG provides specialist river equipment, competent contractors and river builders who can create and implement an appropriate river maintenance programme.

Responsibility for UK rivers involves reporting to the Environment Agency if there is any flooding, blockages, pollution, or badly damaged banks. It is important that river owners do not obstruct the flow of water. They may have to remove fallen trees or debris in order to keep the flow on its natural course.

Using the natural environment to reduce flooding is called soft engineering. It is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a river. Along with soft engineering, embankments are designed specifically with flood prevention in mind. Flood gates and pump stations are also a vital resource against flooding and TRG maintains and repairs these when necessary.

It is up to the river owner and the local authority to prevent pollution to rivers. In some cases, studies must be carried out to better understand how pollution is impacting the environment. Local authorities have to work with river owners to prevent further pollution. This great work is vital to the ongoing health and usability of UK rivers.

The following are examples of those who are responsible for maintaining and managing rivers across the UK:

  • Riparian owners – Those who own land which has a watercourse or ditch either flowing through or adjacent to the land are responsible for ensuring that water is able to flow freely, and that steps are in place to prevent flooding.

  • County councils – The local county councils are responsible for the management of flood risk from surface water and for managing ordinary watercourses. Although, councils are not always responsible for maintenance or repairs, they are able to advise on potential solutions and points of contact.

  • Town councils – The various town and parish councils and communities throughout the UK play an important role in managing rivers at a local level, especially when it comes to reporting potential issues and flood risks. Local feedback allows effective maintenance and management plans to be created and helps to ensure that the area receives the funding it requires.

  • The Environment Agency – There are many responsibilities which fall to The Environment Agency, especially when maintenance relates to regulating river water flow, reservoirs, and flooding along main rivers. The agency is able to undertake and organise a vast amount of the maintenance which rivers require, but the cost is covered by the Riparian owner if the land is privately owned. In Wales, the equivalent responsibilities fall to Natural Resources Wales.

  • The Canal and River Trust – The trust is responsible for the management of 2,000 miles of canals and waterways across the UK, and they are tasked with water management, preservation of the historic canal system and the restoration of lost waterways.

  • External contractors – Across the UK there are external contractors, such as The Rothen Group, that are tasked with the completion of projects and maintenance plans produced by the various organisations listed above. Through specialist equipment, machinery and an in-depth knowledge of the UK’s waterways, contractors are able to complete many of the tasks which the various authorities above do not have the in-house resources for.

While responsibility for UK rivers lies with the owners, The Rothen Group can support with maintaining and repairing their river. The Rothen Group uses a fleet of specialist waterways equipment and highly trained experts to provide the best marine engineering services possible. If you have a river on your property your first port of call should be The Rothen Group.

It is important that all rivers and watercourses follow an effective maintenance programme, with most waterways requiring at least annual maintenance to ensure water is able to flow freely and that flood risks are managed. However, resources are often limited and so efforts and activities are often focused on areas which would suffer economically or environmentally without the required maintenance. The following are just some of the reasons why river maintenance is so important:

  • Wildlife – If a river is maintained effectively, it creates an excellent habitat for important wildlife, including protected species such as the water vole. By carefully trimming banks, and removing obstructions, the environment surrounding rivers can be enhanced.

  • Flood risk – If water levels are not managed efficiently, land, property and infrastructure is at risk of flooding, so it is important to maintain ditches and culverts and to ensure flood defences are installed when required.

  • Transportation and recreation – Although traffic along rivers is largely recreational, being able to navigate rivers easily is often an important part of supporting the local tourism industry. By removing silt and vegetation build-up and ensuring there are plenty of safe access and mooring points, rivers can help to support the local economy.

  • Agriculture – Many farmers rely on fertile flood plains when growing crops, so it is important that water can be effectively carried from drainage ditches to nearby rivers and streams without any obstacles, especially during periods of high rainfall.

  • Energy – Although the rivers are rarely used to power mills and factories, there are still steep rivers which are used to power important hydroelectric plants.

Who to contact if you spot a damaged or dangerous river

If you spot a flood, blockage, pollution, a change in the flow of water, damaged riverbanks, or potential dangers along a stretch of river, you should call the 24-hour Environment Agency Incident hotline on: 0800 80 70 60. The team at the Environmental agency will them prioritise their response based on the seriousness of the issue and the risk. Due to budget constraints, the agency may not be able to respond to low-risk incidents immediately, but the information you provide will help to shape a river maintenance plan.

The Rothen Group – Maintaining rivers and waterways across the UK

Our experienced team are proud to be responsible for the maintenance of many rivers and waterways across the UK, so whether you are a landowner looking to improve water flow, a local council seeking support with flood and surface water management or another important agency, our team are here to help.

We undertake projects of every scale, from the removal of obstructions within rivers and the control of aquatic weeds through to the installation and repair of embankments and other flood defence structures. To find out more about our UK wide services, please contact our experienced team today.

You benefit from the best guidance drawn from years of experience by contacting The Rothen Group.

UK River Maintenance

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