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Restoring waterways transforms communities

Waterway restoration

Restoring the UK’s blue infrastructure – our inherited network of navigable canals and rivers – is good for people and places.

Over the last 75 years – since IWA was formed – more than 500 miles of waterway have been restored; but there are over 500 miles of waterway yet to restore.

Canal restorations bring benefits at every stage

They can act as a trigger for regeneration, attracting visitors and investment to the area. Businesses enjoy the new waterside developments and jobs are created. Flat paths alongside the re-built canals offer perfect leisure activity conditions for walking, jogging and fishing.

Overall, the waterways instil a renewed feeling of pride and community amongst the local population.

We lead, support & champion restoration

We have a long and successful history of leading and supporting restoration – championing restoration at every level of government and offering expert engineering, planning and fundraising advice.

Our Waterway Recovery Group helps restore waterways by running week-long working holidays and weekend digs on restoration sites, as well as by providing training for restoration volunteers.

Our Restoration Hub provides invaluable advice and support for waterway restoration promoters.

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How you can help

Your support gives waterway restoration across the country access to our experts, our teams of enthusiastic volunteers, and helps us make the case for restoration to all levels of government. Or why not find out how you can get involved?

IWA published its Waterways for Today Report in 2022.  This sets out in a concise and easily digestible form some of the many benefits that Britain’s canals and river navigations bring.  Find out more.

Print and share

Waterways in Progress is a resource for restoration trusts and societies and other volunteer groups to promote the importance of canal restoration and the regeneration benefits delivered for communities up and down the country. The report has been published to share with local government, developers, planners and other stakeholder groups to highlight the value of canal restoration.


Read our report on the untapped potential of unfinished restorations.

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38,976 hrs

Volunteer graft

Our Waterway Recovery Group volunteers spent over 3,700 days in 2019 working on restoration sites across the country.

[Figures for 2020 to 2022 are not representative owing to Covid restrictions]


Value added by volunteers

Each year, Waterway Recovery Group volunteers add tremendous value to canal restorations, such as the £252,900 in 2019.

41 weekends

Canal Camps

Waterway Recovery Group’s weekend groups spent 41 weekends out digging canals in 2019.

Restoration schemes are not just a means to an end; they have a life of their own and can bring quantifiable benefits at every stage

David Suchet

Restoration Case Studies

Restoration News

Sustainable boating

We are campaigning for boating on canals and rivers to be more sustainable.

Preserving heritage

Britain’s canals and rivers are a unique, living heritage. But that heritage is at risk.

Safeguarding waterways

Hundreds of miles of waterways are currently starved of funding.

Volunteers working on the restoration of the Stover Canal

Restoring waterways

Bringing Britain’s blue infrastructure back to life is good for people and places.

Campaign updates