Rivers and waterways
“Despite covering less than one per cent of the Earth’s surface, freshwater ecosystems (rivers, streams etc) provide a habitat for more than 100,000 known wildlife species – but many are struggling to cope due to habitat degradation.” The Rivers Trust
Rivers are a precious source of fresh water for both people and wildlife. Rivers are a vital ecosystem for many animals and plants, and they play an important part in the water cycle – the path that all water follows as it moves around our planet.
What are we doing?
In 2020, we created a new Councillor role of Thames Champion to focus on the river when it comes to council policy and to work with partners to enhance access and water quality.
Bathing Water Status
In October 2022, we made a joint application with Wallingford Town Council, supported by environmental charity Thames21, to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for bathing water status for a stretch of the River Thames at Wallingford. We were extremely disappointed to learn recently that our application was unsuccessful. We have contacted Defra to get more clarification on the reasons for their decision. We are also considering the next steps available to us to take the process forward.
River Catchment Partnerships
A ‘catchment’ is an area of land where water collects when it rains, often surrounded by hills. As the water flows over the landscape, it finds its way into streams and down into the soil, eventually feeding into a river or waterway.
There are approximately 100 river catchments across England and Wales. Each one has a partnership working towards ending pollution in the river and promoting its use and enjoyment in a sustainable way.
These catchment partnerships comprise local organisations and groups, including water companies, businesses and local authorities, working together to protect our precious water environments and the benefits they bring.
We work with the following catchment partnerships to help end river pollution and promote the sustainable use and enjoyment of the River Thames.
- South Chilterns
- River Ock
- River Thame (a tributary of the Thames)
Enjoying the river
There are many ways to enjoy waterways, from a riverside walk to boating, canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding, all of which can bring health and wellbeing benefits. You can find safety advice and information on licences you may need from organisations such as The Rivers Trust and The Canal & River Trust .
For more information on staying safe when going for a swim in a local river or other wild swimming area, visit our water safety page
Wild Swimming and The Outdoor Swimming Society can also provide advice on swimming outdoors.
Storm discharge and storm overflows
When using rivers it’s important to know that at times, especially after heavy rain, water companies discharge untreated sewage into rivers and waterways. Thames Water’s storm discharge map shows near real-time storm discharge activity. You can use the map to see if overflows are currently discharging into a watercourse or the date and time of the last recorded discharge, to help you make a decision about using the river.
More information from Thames Water on River Health is available here
Contact us - Climate and Biodiversity Team
South Oxfordshire District Council