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Save a River….Save the Ocean

From source to sea, Keep Britain Tidy believes that everyone should love where they live and take responsibility for the natural environment.

Rivercare & Beachcare is an initiative encouraging communities to take pride in their local environment and come together to maintain and enhance this for future generations.

Rivercare and Beachcare support communities to set up active volunteer groups who take action on the ground and clear up litter, remove non-native species, survey and monitor flora and fauna and undertake habitat improvement work.

It takes a very special person to dedicate time out of their (usually already hectic) life to volunteer and Keep Britain Tidy think their volunteers are modern day heroes.

Keep Britain Tidy, RiverCare & Beachcare is funded by Anglian Water.

Keep Britain Tidy provides equipment, insurance, advice and guidance to make sure that everyone can have fun and be safe while working within their natural environment. Many of the groups receive support and collaborate with the Wildlife Trusts, Environment Agency, Natural England, district and county councils to manage vital wildlife corridors and associated habitats.

There are currently 11 Rivercare and Beachcare groups in Essex with over 200 volunteers.

Steve Waters, Rivercare Group Leader from Colchester “I like being involved in Rivercare, because it gives us help in keeping the river clean, it provides useful equipment to make the cleaning easier, and with frequent meetings involving the coordinators and other groups, can inspire me to do more. I was encouraged to become a volunteer River Warden, with the Essex Wildlife Trust, which involves searching for signs of otters and Water Voles on the river, being aware of invasive species in or near the river, and observing and reporting any changes to the river i.e. excessive foaming, oil residues, dead animals, all this makes the Colne a better healthier place to be in or around.

RiverCare and Beachcare groups represent the power of community spirit and that loving wildlife and loving where you live, goes beyond social boundaries.

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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.