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Creating a better place

Improving the water environment in the north-western Lake District and Cumbria

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People sitting on the shores of Derwentwater during summer 2018
Derwentwater summer 2018

 West Cumbria Rivers Trust Guest Blog 

We all know the Environment Agency plays a key role in protecting water for people’s lives and livelihoods. There have been improvements in rivers and coastal waters over the last two decades, but more needs to be done and everyone has a role to play.

One of the Environment Agency’s partners in Cumbria, West Cumbria Rivers Trust, strives to restore and enhance the value of rivers, iconic lakes, estuaries and surrounding countryside throughout the north-western Lake District and West Cumbria for the benefit of people and wildlife.

West Cumbria Rivers Trust lead’s the local catchment partnership in West Cumbria, where people and organisations with an interest in our rivers and iconic lakes, are brought together for collaborative catchment management for the benefit of future generations.

Working together to improve our rivers and lakes

Rivers and the iconic Lake District lakes are a central part of Cumbria’s lifestyle and economy and we expect a lot from them including recreation opportunities, drinking water, managed flood risk, sewage treatment, water for industry, and wildlife habitats.

The water environment is affected by every activity that takes place on land as well as through our actions in abstracting, using and returning water to rivers, the sea and the ground. Catchments are the natural scale to consider this aspect of the environment.

This is particularly important when trying to address the significant pressures placed on the water environment by diffuse pollution from both agricultural and urban sources, and widespread, historical alterations to the natural form of channels.

Managing these diverse demands can be difficult and requires organisations, businesses and communities to work together.


Catchment partnership meeting. Four groups of people sitting at tables in a meeting room
Catchment partnership meeting


A catchment based approach

The Environment Agency has always worked in partnership with others as they realise working together you can achieve greater things. Then in 2011, Defra published a policy framework to encourage the wider adoption of an integrated Catchment Based Approach, a partnership initiative to improving the quality of our water environment. It signalled its belief that more locally focussed decision making and action should sit at the heart of the debate about the future direction of improvements to the water environment.

There are now there are over 100 catchment partnerships in England and cross-border with Wales, and 11 in the North West river basin district. The West Cumbria Catchment Partnership is a fantastic example of where we are achieving more together.

The West Cumbria Catchment Partnership brings people together to prioritise, plan and deliver projects that benefit people, wildlife and the economy. We work collaboratively on projects that improve water quality, enhance habitat and reduce flood risk. We share resources, ideas and expertise, and coordinate funding and delivery.

Part of the national Catchment Based Approach, the partnership includes; local and county councils, the conservation charities, angling groups, farming organisations, community groups as well as government agencies such as Forestry Commission, Natural England and the Environment Agency. The partnership ensures work is done collaboratively with sharing of information, ideas and resources.

Working at the catchment level, this partnership is a group that works together to agree and deliver the strategic priorities for the catchment and to support the Environment Agency in developing an appropriate River Basin Management Plan, required under the Water Framework Directive.

Our integrated approach from source to sea means we make real and positive change.


A view of Ennerdale, in the North West Lake District with farmland in the foreground
A view of Ennerdale

A view of Ennerdale


Together we are achieving more

Working together, partners are in a stronger position to apply for funding and deliver successful projects. Recently the partnership has collectively been offered over £3 million of funding from Water Environment Grants for projects to improve water quality, habitat and access across West Cumbria.

Several exciting partnership projects are currently being developed, including an ambitious potential scheme that could tackle a flooding issue on the A66 road near Portinscale and other projects to reduce flood risk to properties in Portinscale and Braithwaite, improve National Park footpaths and restore the habitat of a straightened river in the Newlands Valley.

The partnership has developed several natural flood management projects where work is starting to begin this spring, including on the River Cocker, near Lorton, Glenderamackin, above Keswick, Flimby becks, and the River Annas, above Bootle.

 Find out more and have your say

During April 2019, the partnership launched a new website

Here you can find:

  • an interactive map showing the projects that are happening in your local area
  • Extensive data on rivers and lakes and the issues they face, including water quality, fish populations and flood risk zones
  • The Catchment Action Plans, detailing planned projects and what we’d like to see for each river in West Cumbria

The website is great for anyone interested in their local water course. You can learn more about the issues we face and see what all the different agencies involved are doing to address them.

We’d love to hear from you if you have ideas on what you’d like to see from your local rivers and lakes, so please do check it out and give us your thoughts and ideas.

What you can do

We expect so much from our lakes and rivers and managing them in a sustainable way requires organisations, businesses and communities to work together. We hope the partnership provides a forum for people to join up to make a positive difference.

Everyone can do their bit to protect water quality and our water environment, such as land managers farming responsibly, water companies investing in our water infrastructure and managing it well, all of us at home by being careful about what we pour and flush away.

We can all help protect our lakes and rivers from harmful invasive species by ‘Checking, Cleaning & Drying’ your equipment before enjoying the outdoors.

People can also volunteer to help improve their local environment. Several organisations, including West Cumbria Rivers Trust, organise regular events or activities, which people can volunteer to get involved in, such as litter picks, tree planting, invasive species control and protecting against bank erosion. Check out our events to find out more.

I always think it’s important that people remember to contact the Environment Agency if you notice pollution to land or water so they can investigate and take appropriate action to protect people and the environment. Their hotline 0800 80 70 60 is open 24/7.

All the different organisations and groups involved have different expertise and it’s great to see everyone working together to get the best all-round outcomes for people and the environment.

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