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Tell Us Your River Stories

We are always on the lookout for volunteers who are keen to help us tell the stories of our rivers! This could be on any river topic from your time in nature when out and about, actions you’ve taken to improve our waterways, or the history of our wonderful rivers and estuaries. Please get in contact if you would like to help tell the stories of our rivers and have your content shared in our newsfeed. Send your emails to

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Become a River Champion

Essex Wildlife Trust have just launched their updated volunteering scheme, ‘River Champions’, which builds on the success of the previous River Warden scheme.

Becoming a River Champion will give you opportunities to take coordinated action for your local river, working with others in your community to protect and restore our waterways. You could get involved with riverside tree planting, invasive species removal, litter picks, and more. Additionally, you could become a River Champion Surveyor, and get involved with citizen science projects such as mammal surveying and Riverfly monitoring.

River Champions differs from the previous River Warden scheme in that it introduces a greater emphasis on community self-organising. Our Wilder Communities team will offer support, advice, and guidance to those looking to kickstart community projects in their area.

As a River Champion, you can get involved however best fits for you. There will be opportunities to learn new technical skills, to learn surveying techniques – but those activities aren’t essential for you to be a River Champion. Our role, in many ways, is to provide opportunities and subsequent support to those who might want to take them.

If you have any idea for a river-based community project, want to start taking action locally for your river, and/or are seeking citizen science opportunities, then River Champions is the place to start. You can find more information, and sign up to get involved, by following the link here.

If you would like to get involved or have any questions, please get in touch by emailing with the subject ‘River Champions’.

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Take Part in The Big River Watch

The Rivers Trust is launching The Big River Watch to help build a picture of river health across the country. It's good for you, and good for our rivers.

Whether you’re a swimmer or a paddler, an angler or a rambler, a wildlife spotter or a sit-and-watch-er, this is a chance to be part of the movement improving our freshwater spaces!

In just three easy steps, you will contribute to a national data set that will help us build a picture of river health across the country.

Step 1: Sign up

Sign up and download the survey app to your phone before visiting the site.

Step 2: Take part

Pick a riverside location to join others around the country in collecting data about the health of your local river. You can complete the survey at your favourite local spot, or choose to get to know somewhere new!

Visit between the 22nd and the 24th September 2023, and spend just 15 minutes observing and answering the questions on the survey. You'll tell us about the things that you see - from wildlife and plants, to the flow speed of the water and whether you can spot any pollution. If you don't know what you're looking at, use our handy in-app ID guides for pollution and wildlife.

Step 3: Upload

Upload your survey. We'll gather up all of your results and our data specialists will get busy analysing the information so that The Rivers Trust and other environmental organisations can be better armed in the fight for healthier, wilder rivers.

Share your experience and your photos on social media using #BigRiverWatch.

Why is Big River Watch needed?

Rivers are suffering from sewage, plastic, chemical and nutrient pollution. To change this, we need to know where our rivers are having the problems and which problems are the most prevalent. The free and open Big River Watch survey is your chance to make a difference. Data gathered during Big River Watch can support policy change; helping turn the tide on plastics or stem the flow of untreated sewage. It also helps identify the best places for river clean-ups, or the creation of things like wetlands.

Click here to find out more about The Big River Watch.

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Stay in the Loop

Subscribe to the Essex Rivers Hub newsletter to hear about our latest work and project updates from the catchment partnership.

Essex Rivers Hub


The topics below represent the pressures that many waterbodies in the Combined Essex catchment face. They have been divided into six main categories, but it is quite often that these categories can overlap as pressures relate to each other.

Diffuse pollution occurs as water moves across the land or through the ground and picks pollutants. These pollutants can come from a variety of places, including urban and field run off. The pollutants that enter the river can range from sediment to toxins to excess nutrients, meaning that diffuse pollution can cause a whole range of different issues. The variety in these pressure groups means that it is something that can be quite difficult to tackle. It requires groups of people, business and stakeholders to work together in order to solve this problem.

Fish should be able to travel up and down a river freely, allowing them to move and breed in the most suitable habitats for them. It is important that fish populations do not become isolated, as this makes them more susceptible to disease and puts pressure on their survival. Unfortunately, there are often many barriers along rivers that prevent fish from being able to migrate up and down stream. Where barriers have been identified, they will be seen as a ‘pressure’ on a waterbody. Thankfully, there are many solutions now that can be put in place to aid fish passage, even over large barriers.

The flow in a river can vary greatly throughout the year as rainfall and run off can have an effect. This is a natural process. It is when flow is impacted by non-natural processes that it can cause problems. Sometimes, water can be intercepted or removed from a system; this will reduce the flow, therefore changing the habitat conditions. Some species are happy in high energy rivers. This means that when flow is reduced, these species will no longer survive. The opposite of this can occur when excess water is entering a river, for example through increased runoff. Low energy systems then become high energy and displace the species that live there.

A species that is not meant to be found in a particular area is known as an invasive species. Invasive species can be from a different habitat or a different country altogether. Most of the invasive species that we find on our rivers have come from other countries – plants that people have imported for their gardens or animals that have been released for food or by animal rights activists. Control of invasive species requires a lot of time and effort. We are fortunate that we do have a range of methods to manage most of the invasive species that cause havoc on our rivers, but there are still some which we are still struggling to control.

Many of our rivers have been heavily modified over the years as rivers have been used for a wide range of purposes. Physical modification is one of the biggest factors that causes our rivers to be unhealthy. The issues that it can cause range from reducing habitat, preventing migration of mobile species, and even have an effect on the water quality. Where structures and modifications are no longer in use or necessary, they should be removed to allow the river to regain its natural state. Unfortunately, this action is not always taken which means that many of our rivers are over straightened and contain redundant structures. It is possible to return a lot of our rivers to their natural state, through one off projects, but in other cases it is not possible as the river has been changed to protect assets or manage flooding. It is recognised that some modifications cannot be removed without having severe negative impacts both socially and economically.

This is pollution that comes from a single identifiable source. The pollution entering the river could include a whole range of pollutants. Some point source pollution is known about and licences, for example sewage treatment works. Other sources are not licensed, and therefore work needs to be done with landowners to fix the problems that are allowing the pollution to enter the river. Point source pollution is more easily controlled than diffuse pollution as it often only takes one management approach to solve the issue.