31 January 2023

IWA welcomes today’s announcement by the Government about its Environmental Improvement Plan 2023. However, we would like to see more emphasis on the role our waterways can play.

IWA’s Waterways for Today report highlights the importance of waterways for protecting the environment and providing access to nature for those living in urban areas. Our canals and rivers are blue-green corridors that allow opportunities for reconnecting disparate habitats, biodiversity net gain and improvements for wildlife.

Canals and rivers offer homes for wildlife to flourish, while at the same time providing opportunities for people to see plants, insects, and birds that they wouldn’t normally experience in an urban environment. Our local communities benefit from improved health and wellbeing. They bring economic benefits, providing jobs and attracting people to the area which contributes to people using local businesses when accessing the waterways.

With the impact of climate change, canals are providing the water transfer highways to ensure London and other areas being severely affected by reduced rainfall have sufficient supplies to meet the growing demands.

Enhancing and restoring our waterways is vital to achieving the Government’s target of having everyone living within 15 minutes’ walk of a blue or green space. But this ageing infrastructure will require an ongoing financial commitment to survive the increasing threat of climate change and rising costs.

We call on the Government to recognise the value of our waterways in achieving the environmental targets set out in the Environmental Improvement Plan, and to invest in them for the future.