London Waterkeeper

Defending rivers. Challenging polluters.


London Waterkeeper wants to see a swimmable Thames. The mental and physical health of thousands would benefit. We need live water quality updates and designated swim zones from the Cotswolds to Putney Bridge. There are times the Thames fails bathing water standards and others when it meets them, but no one knows when they are. People use the river in ignorance, putting their health at risk.

A Thames Fit To Swim would be transcendent allowing more people to use it and not fear getting ill – whether that is to swim, row, kayak, standup paddleboard, or an ankle-deep paddle. It would see fish and other wildlife flourish and be a boon to local economies.

Other cities around Europe already have swimmable rivers. Munich’s River Isar is now clean enough to swim and play in. Copenhagen’s city beaches and harbour pools have been around for 20 years. They have changed the way people experience its waters and are now the most popular open spaces in the city.

At the heart of this transformation is access to information – so we can make an informed decision about using the river. We have a right to know when sewers overflow into the River Thames. Seattle tells people when its sewers can’t cope, as does Auckland. London is lagging behind. We need –

We need –

  • Thames Water to tell us when its sewers overflow to the river, in real-time, from the Cotswolds to the Capital. Help overwhelm Thames Water with Information Requests.
  • The Environment Agency to embrace this vision for the Thames as part of its statutory duty to promote the use of inland waters for recreational purposes.

The aim is to have the most appropriate sections of the Thames become Designated Bathing Waters. Germany and France have rivers with this status. There is just one in the UK. We need live sewer spill alerts first of course, so people’s health isn’t put at risk.

The gold standard is Copenhagen. Here’s how they made the city’s waters swimmable. This is their live bathing water quality website.

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