This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book. Managing & Maintaining our water channels


Photos courtesy of the Environment Agency

Europe’s rivers have been suffering from the effects of engineering activities and the alteration of rivers and their floodplains.

Activities commonly associated with the provision of services such as flood protection, navigation, water supply and hydroelectricity include the direct engineering of rivers (for example bed and bank reinforcement, river re-sectioning, extensive channelisation, culverting and dredging of channels), and alterations to natural hydrological regimes (e.g. water diversion, hydro-peaking, truncation of bedload transport followed by river bed degradation.

Habitat decline

These activities coupled with widespread floodplain reduction and modification as land use intensifies have resulted in significant levels of river habitat decline, and alteration to the natural hydromorphology of riverine ecosystems. These impacts are well documented in the literature across the majority of major temperate zone rivers in Europe and the USA.

Less than 20% of Europe’s rivers and floodplains are still in their natural physical state. Our remaining pristine rivers are mainly located in remote boreal and arctic regions. Most of our rivers and watercourses have


been modified to serve the needs of the human population with varying levels of impact. The European Environment Agency in 2009 found only 15% of freshwater habitats were of a favourable condition, 30% in bad status and 35% of inadequate status.

heterogeneity, functional processes and species.

What is involved? River restoration refers to a large variety of ecological, physical, spatial and management measures and practices. These are aimed at restoring the natural state and functioning of the river system in support of biodiversity, recreation, flood safety and landscape development.

A bank reinforcement wall in the process of being removed

By restoring natural conditions, river restoration improves the resilience of the river systems and provides the framework for the sustainable multifunctional use of estuaries, rivers and streams. River restoration is an integral part of sustainable water management and is in direct support of the aims of the Water Framework Directive, and national and regional water management policies.

Technical measures that help to bring rivers closer to their natural state include the creation of fish passes and weir removal.

After removal

The large scale decline in river habitat and reduction in functional floodplain is also linked to significant reductions in associated biodiversity which include impacts on spatiotemporal

Click to download the River Restoration Manual from the UK River Restoration Centre.

When planning improvements to your rivers it is helpful to engage with people and organisations at a catchment level. The health of our waters will benefit from looking at the river and habitats, from source to sea. To learn more about

Cornmill Gardens, before restoration and after

restoring estuaries and tidal waters you can download the Estuary Edges guidance from the Environment Agency website by clicking. This guidance looks at a wide range of opportunities and constraints before looking into detail at four key approaches to estuary bank design.

River restoration involves a wide range of stakeholders from the public and private sector including policy makers, practitioners, scientists and non-government organisations, as well as all citizens groups potentially impacted. By actively drawing these various stakeholders into the process, visions can shared and tuned towards each other. This makes for different interests to be met, and increases support for restoration efforts.

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