Discarded plastic bottle shoved onto the top of reed stem

UK’s rivers and wetlands need help

Despite some progress, the state of freshwater and coastal habitats in the UK is largely poor. Without action, this will have a catastrophic impact on the future of the wildlife which depends on them.

Poor water quality

Poor water quality is threatening our freshwater habitats and the wildlife they support. Our Troubled Waters report outlines why this is happening and its impact all around the UK, even in our most protected areas. It also shows how the UK public perceives and values our freshwater habitats and sets out the actions needed to ensure water quality improves.

Habitat loss

View across the Thames Estuary, at sunset, with golden light reflecting off the water, and a line of birds in flight in front of a dark silhouette of an industrial works in the background

The UK’s freshwater and wetland habitats have greatly reduced since the industrial revolution. The straightening and damming of rivers, the draining of land for development and the abstraction of water from natural sources has all had a destructive impact.


Better legal protection and the cutting of subsidies for damaging practices has reduced the decline, but the latest State of Nature report clearly shows how wetland habitat has decreased considerably compared to the middle of the last century.  

Restoration opportunities

Golden sunlight over the wetlands of Wallasea,

Change is possible. Over the last 25 years the RSPB has been involved in delivering more than a third of newly created coastal habitat in the UK. Our 2018 Sustainable Shores project sets out how we can share this experience to create and restore new wetlands for nature to thrive.