Sunday 24 September is World Rivers Day, a time to appreciate our waterways and to resolve to preserve them.
When I was a child we used to spend a lot of time in the summers wading in the beautiful clear little stream behind our house, building partial dams and tickling for trout and bullheads and generally investigating the wildlife that lived in it. It was an idyllic time, except when someone upstream who had broken the law and directed their sewage output into the stream pulled the chain. And, fed from Exmoor, there were times when it turned from a beautiful little stream into a dangerously raging torrent. I don’t recall it ever completely drying up even in the driest of summers, however, and it was a great place to cool off.
Not every river was clean then, of course. Industry made its mark. In my area in the small town next to the sea, the river often took on strong colours thanks to the local print works.
Perhaps you had a stream to play in when you were a child, or watched boats going by on a major river.
Perhaps the pristine stream or river you knew then is polluted now — by fertiliser runoff, increased sewage or industrial pollution due to population growth. Or maybe it has been built over or straightened with concrete sides.
Perhaps it has dried up, due to over-extraction or failure of the snows that used to melt and feed it, thanks to global warming.
Or perhaps it has turned into a destructive torrent thanks to the greater rains that some of us are getting these days. Major floods in my area back in the day included the Lynmouth Flood of 1952 with a loss of 34 lives and the 2004 Boscastle flood. But these pale into insignificance compared to recent world-wide floods, exacerbated by human-caused climate change.
As climate change denialists love to tell us, truthfully, extremes of weather are not new. But they ignore the fact that they are more frequent, widespread and extreme these days.
Rivers are part of the water cycle
Rivers come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny streams at their sources to massive rivers like the Amazon. From straight stretches cutting their way through soft rock to form gorges, to meandering sinuously on the flat, sometimes…