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Why do we need river management in the UK?


Our rivers are a precious resource that we rely on for everything from fishing and agriculture through to tourism, ecology, wildlife, and infrastructure, so it is vital that they are managed effectively. We cannot live without water, and throughout the UK there are various organisations, businesses, charities, and volunteers involved with the management of our rivers, canals, estuaries, wetlands, and coastal areas, including the team here at The Rothen Group.

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How do you control a river or waterway?

Controlling waterflow within rivers has been important for thousands of years, not only to avoid flooding but also to take advantage of the benefits the flood plain can provide and the supply of water. Since Ancient Roman times and the Yuan Dynasty, rivers have been used as an important resource, although in more recent years the focus of river and waterway control has shifted towards environmental concerns. As a result of global warming and the poor maintenance of many waterways, there is a growing risk of flooding, so it is more important than ever that an effective management program is followed. 

What are the main types of river and waterway management?

There are many areas which need to be managed within any river or waterway, such as the following:


  • Building hard engineering structures such as dams, embankments, and reservoirs to protect areas within a floodplain.

  • Modifying the flow of the river through techniques such as straightening the channel or making it deeper by dredging.

  • Restoration and protection of important wildlife areas, such as natural wetlands.

  • Managing drainage channels within areas of low-lying, fertile ground such as the Fenlands.

  • Restoration of winding courses and natural floodplains, so that floodwater is released gradually.

  • The removal of obstructions from the river course, such as weeds, tree roots, rocks, gravel accumulations and plant growth, which could impede water flow.

  • Natural flood management through the planting of trees, small wood dams and by storing water within open land.


Hard engineering is often used to manage rivers, with artificial structures such as embankments and dams used to control water flow. For example, dams can be used to trap water within a reservoir, so that water can be released in a more controlled way, and it is even possible to produce electricity from the force of the water as it passes through the dam.


However, these artificial strategies tend to be more costly than soft engineering approaches which involve a more natural approach to managing waterways, such as zoning of floodplains to manage flood risks. This is why it is important to always engage with experienced contractors who are able to advise on the most cost-effective and efficient approach to river management.

Why is river maintenance important?

From the hydraulic civilisations along the Nile and Indus Rivers, humans have relied on river maintenance and control for water security, energy, transportation, housing, wildlife, and ecology, this is why river maintenance is so important. As climate change continues to impact temperatures, rainfall and water levels, water supply and flood risk management is clearly important for our economic, social, and environmental wellbeing. 

Who maintains the UK's rivers and waterways?

The responsibility of more than 2,000 miles of waterways throughout England and Wales falls to the Canal and River Trust, with Scottish waterways managed by British Waterways. In addition, the Environment Agency is the authority for many of the non-tidal waterways, such as the River Thames, and rivers within East Anglia and the Fens. There are also various navigation authorities, which are responsible for everything from the maintenance of bridges to dredging channels and floodplain management across many of the UK’s rivers and waterways, such as Anglian Water, Avon Navigation Trust, and the Broads Authority.

Who to contact if you spot a damaged river?

If you spot a damaged river with an issue such as a collapsed riverbank, flooding, or a blocked river, you should call the Environmental Agency 14-hour incident hotline on: 0800 80 70 60. Although, there are some issues which need to be reported to your local council, such as dangerous structures, fly tipping and pests.

The Rothen Group – Expert river management services 

Whether you need assistance with managing flood water, controlling the speed of water flow or repairing and maintaining riverbanks, The Rothen Group have the experience, manpower and equipment required to complete projects of every scale. Our experts can assess, advise, plan, and implement solutions which will ensure waterways across the UK are protected, maintained, and managed efficiently. To find out more about our wealth of experience, our bespoke fleet of machinery or how we can support your project, contact our team today.

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