Challenges & Choices: 4 Simple Ways you can Become a Champion for Water

25 Mar 2020

We all rely on water here in the Nene Valley catchment for happiness, health, success and a greener future, but it also relies on you.

There are more of us sharing our ever-changing planet than ever before and that means less water to go around, and it's important for each of us to be mindful of how we use our water and to ensure that we protect and conserve this most valuable resource for communities, ecosystems, and for the future. Water is crucial in powering industry, transport, protecting wildlife, and for a thriving economy, while also contributing to our general health and happiness.

As part of our efforts to support the Environment Agency's Challenges & Choices Consultation, we've been sharing insights and resources on how everyday actions in our communities impact our rivers and waterways, and now we're putting it to you. Here are some small, but powerful changes you can make in your own daily lives and activities that contribute towards a bigger impact locally, nationally and globally.

1. Waste Water - The 3 Ps

You might think this goes without saying, but environment and health officials continue to report the horrors of what gets flushed down our toilets and drains on a daily basis. Here are some of the most common offenders;

    • Nappies
    • Wet Wipes
    • Sanitary waste
    • Fats and Oils which solidify into 'fatbergs' as they travel through our sewerage system.

The guidance from the Environment Agency is to observe the rule of the 3 Ps - Pee, Poo, and Paper. If it doesn't fall into any of these categories, it's bad news for both your pipes and our rivers. You can make a huge difference by making small switches every day to reusable wipes and materials, such as biodegradable wipes that can be disposed of with food waste, reusable cloth sanitary products, or cloth nappies. 

2. Chemicals

River quality in the UK is the best it has been in over 100 years, yet our waterways still contain traces of chemicals, which affect our ecosystems, our food systems, and the quality of our drinking water. These chemicals can enter the ecosystem from sewers, farms, discharges, roads, and even from the products and medications we use in our own homes. 

One of the top culprits are phosphates - these enter the water supply via sewage and household products and are a hazard to wildlife and the river ecosystems. They are also costly and energy intensive for water companies to eradicate from our drinking water. 

Here are 4 things you can do today to minimise your own chemical impact on the water we use:

    • Buy responsibly - Check labels on household products and detergents and opt for gentle, environmentally-friendly brands and formulas.
    • Dispose of household chemicals correctly - Again, labels are your friend. Always follow the recommended methods for disposing of chemical products in your home and workplace.
    • Old products - Some chemicals have been deemed so hazardous to the health of our water that they have been banned for use in products completely. If you've had a tin of paint or detergent hanging around for a while, do ensure to check the labels for banned ingredients before use and/or disposal. 
    • Medication - If you have leftover medications that you no longer use, it's important to return any unused prescriptions to your pharmacist, who will dispose of them for you. Similarly with medications obtained from your vet. 

3. Get Involved!

If you've already nailed the small stuff, why not think bigger and take a more active role in preserving and improving the water in your catchment?

    • Join a Catchment Partnership - such as our own Nene Valley Catchment Partnership and connect with like-minded, passionate individuals, businesses and organisations on a range of projects locally, and in the wider Nene Valley catchment, or one of our smaller local working groups. 
    • Volunteer - This could be something as simple as picking up litter on your next riverside dog walk, or taking it a step further and signing up for a meatier project, such as those offered by our Lottery Heritage-funded Nenescape Landscape Partnership. If you have the time to dedicate, the Nenescape team regularly require volunteers in 3 broad roles:
      • Historical Research
      • Public Engagement
      • Outdoor Conservation

To find out more about the latest volunteering opportunities across the Nene Valley Catchment, contact

4. Have Your Say

The Environment Agency are seeking your views on the challenges our waters face and the choices and changes we all need to make to help tackle those challenges, including the impacts posed by agriculture. We will be exploring more of these challenges on this blog over the coming weeks before the deadline of 24th April 2020.

By responding to this consultation you will be helping to shape the management of the water environment. The information gathered through this consultation will help us update the current river basin management plans, starting with the publication of draft plans in 2020. 

Give your input and be a part of the conversation here.