England and Wales have some of the most restricted access to water in the world. Only 3.4% of our rivers have an uncontested public right of navigation.
Our communities are rarely far from rivers, canals or lakes. Yet the vast majority of us are unable to access them.
Our blue spaces of rivers, estuaries, canals, reservoirs and lakes touch our lives in many ways. They provide water for us to drink, they help grow our food and also provide a means of transport.
Blue spaces can be our natural protection from flooding. They can be places where we educate our children and provide recreational opportunities. They are vital for our wellbeing.
Our priorities for action are:
1. Expand our freedom to enjoy more of our inland waters
2. Go further, faster to recover our blue spaces from pollution
3. Educate, inspire and inform responsible, sustainable behaviour
Following the Covid pandemic, interest in being in, on or alongside blue spaces, has grown. About 7.5m people now take part in paddlesports every year in the UK.
The popularity of stand up paddleboarding continues to grow. Over three million adults participated at least one or two times in the discipline, in 2022.
Our waterways are also vital for swimmers, rowers, sailors and anglers.
Under-investment and political ambivalence has left our blue spaces in trouble. They are drowning in chemical and sewage pollution.
They are being degraded by urbanisation, intensive agriculture and invasive non-native species.
The Environment Act (2021) is a step forward, but the dial on saving our rivers is not shifting quick enough.
In 2022, around 1,700 British Canoeing volunteers removed about 1,400 sacks of plastic pollution and other junk, from our rivers.
Hundreds of people continue to tackle invasive non-native species like floating pennywort, which restricts paddling and kills native wildlife.
We will continue to campaign for our waters to be sewage-free.
People care for what they love, but they only love what they know.