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How you can paddle and help us maintain the water environment

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Regulated industry, Uncategorized, Water

Alice Mayne, Deputy Director of Navigation at the Environment Agency, highlights how canoeists, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders can work with the Agency to help to protect our waterways.

Following a Spring with limits on how much time everyone can spend outdoors, many of us have realised how much we enjoy and appreciate the natural environment.

So it has been wonderful to see more people are getting out and appreciating nature, as well as the fun you can have and the positive impact it has on well-being.

Many people find the water environment a peaceful and restorative place to be. They value the quality of it and want to help us keep it that way.

Over the Summer of 2020, British Canoeing has seen an increase in people taking to the water and becoming members, which is brilliant.

The Environment Agency has a responsibility to protect rivers across England, and in some places we are also the navigation authority.

When heading out on the waterways, we would always want people to stay safe, plan their journey in advance and ensure they have the appropriate licence or registration for the waterway they are paddling along.

Across England, navigation authorities are tasked with managing, maintaining and operating waterways to ensure they are safe for boaters to navigate along. Income is invested back into vital environmental and maintenance work. This includes removing fallen trees and other obstacles, improving access to waterways, maintaining sufficient water levels and maintaining locks and other important structures.

The vital contribution from all waterways users helps to ensure everyone can enjoy the water environment while cruising, sailing, or paddling along rivers and canals.

If you’re planning to just stay in one local area, you have the option to sign up with the relevant navigation authority, such as the Environment Agency, the Canal and River Trust or other local authorities to register or get a licence for just that specific location. You can find out more here.

If you’re keen on visiting multiple spots then membership with British Canoeing is a great option. We encourage canoeists, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders to join British Canoeing to get a range of benefits including insurance, advice about safety, links to training and a licence or registration to use many different waterways. By becoming a member, you ensure you’re paddling responsibly and helping to protect the waterways.

Paying a small amount to the navigation authority or via British Canoeing helps to fund improvement work. This is similar to the way anglers contribute through rod licences. All boat owners need to register and contribute including those using bigger powered boats.

At the Environment Agency we are committed to providing the best possible boating experience along our waters in the extraordinary circumstances we all find ourselves. Some services or sites have changed to accommodate social distancing and we have written to boaters about the changes during and after lockdown, with letters published here on GOV.UK.

Along all rivers, the Environment Agency also has a role to regulate industry, protect water quality and respond to pollution incidents. We really value tip-offs from people who report something unusual while they are out and about spending time near their local rivers. We would ask all those enjoying the river environment as anglers, boaters, canoeists, joggers or passers-by to call the EA hotline on 0800 80 70 60 if they spot something which could be pollution so we can investigate and take action to protect the environment.

There is room for everybody to enjoy the waterways together in a collaborative and fair way. We want everyone to share the space, leave riverbanks in good condition and respect the wildlife who also call the waterways their home. We really value the contribution all boaters make to help us maintain and further improve waterways across England for everyone to enjoy - both now and for future generations.


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  1. Comment by Ray Walton posted on

    Seems a bit contradictory seeing as the EA plan to deregulate river and stream pollution and lower river water quality standards, which puts all river users and the public at risk of bacteria and virus contamination from the discharging of untreated Raw Sewage by the privatised foreign owned Water and Sewage Companies etc. Hopefully, the EA hierarchy will be held personally liable.

  2. Comment by jan posted on

    Absolutely agree with Ray's comments.
    Sadly our waterways are nothing more than open sewages. Industries 'games' in making it incredibly difficult to register complaints and manage our concerns is major problem in raising public awareness.

  3. Comment by Roger posted on

    We are the only country in the world with a privatised water sector. I think it’s telling that this is only happening in England, corporate interests are in opposition to the public’s and wildlife’s health. Water needs to be nationalised if we want this to change.


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