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Britain's waterways are chronically underfunded

Waterway underfunding

Hundreds of miles of waterways – along with their unique heritage and habitats – are currently starved of funding and rely on constant lobbying by us to safeguard their future.

It is vitally important that publicly owned waterways continue to receive funding from the Government. 

This includes the 2000 miles managed by Canal & River Trust, the 630 miles run by the Environment Agency and those operated by Scottish Canals.

With access to towpaths and river paths being free, waterways are ideal for people to use for walking, jogging, cycling, fishing, using boats and making journeys to work or shops. 

Inland waterways benefit everyone including improved health and wellbeing through opportunities for holidays, exercise and recreation. There are also financial benefits to local economies through tourism, employment and regeneration.

In March 2023, IWA launched a major new campaign to #ProtectOurWaterways.

In order to deliver the funding strand of the #ProtectOurWaterways campaign, in June 2023 IWA joined with other major waterways organisations to launch the #FundBritainsWaterways campaign. Read about the launch and the campaign.

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est. 2012

Canal & River Trust

IWA was instrumental in Canal & River Trust receiving a sufficient funding package from Government when the new charity was set up in 2012 to run the waterways previously managed by British Waterways.

£112m needed

Scottish Canals

The cost to deal with the backlog of work on the Lowland Canals alone. We are concerned that whole sections of these waterways could face closure due to lack of available funding. There are locks and bridges in poor condition and a lack of dredging.

630 miles

Environment Agency

Budget for the navigation function of the Environment Agency is subject to cuts and the 630 miles of waterway managed by them are suffering from asset deterioration and closures.

The waterways need increased funding to provide fully navigable waterways now and for waterways infrastructure to be protected in the future. Only through increased investment from Government will waterways be able to realise their full potential to the whole population, increasing income for local communities and the national economy.

Amy Tillson, IWA Campaigns Officer

Underfunding 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