It’s World Rivers Day! Rivers are so important – they shape the land, provide us with water and are home to a huge variety of wildlife. Did you know that we have 70,000km of waterways in Ireland, home to 29 species of freshwater fish?! Some, like the salmon and the eel, only spend part of their life-cycle in our rivers and the rest of it swimming across the open ocean; while others, like the pollan, are only found in one or two lakes in the entire country – and they’ve been stuck there since the ice age!
Take a sunny stroll along the riverbank and maybe you’ll spot the footprints of an otter – you can tell it’s an otter and not a dog, if it has five toes instead of four! Or perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of the colourful kingfisher or majestic heron as they patrol the waterway.
Let’s use this day to appreciate and celebrate these great natural resources, the world’s most precious waterways! Taking action on World Rivers Day can contribute to achieving the Green Flag for Water or the Global Citizenship Marine Environment. To do so, we have to first ask ourselves: why are rivers essential? and most importantly, how they are endangered, and how can we care for them?
They give us fresh water:
Fresh and clean water is an essential resource for humans to survive and rivers is where we are getting it form. Rivers are precious sources of fresh drinking water for people across the whole world and it is our duty and responsibility to keep them clean and unpolluted so that everyone across the globe can have access to such a basic need as fresh and clean water.
Rivers are home to a wide variety of wildlife, some of those badly endangered:
Freshwaters represent ideal habitats for a huge portion of the world’s flora and fauna, and they are vital ecosystem for the functioning and survival of many species. Some of the richest biodiversity in the world can be found nearby rivers: from otters, herons, kingfishers, salmons, trout, moorhen and many more. Even for them pollution represent an incredible dangerous threat which needs to be addressed urgently, before endangering even more species.
Rivers are vital for many people livelihoods:
Rivers not only provide us with fresh water, they are also a primarily font of food – being an essential source of protein, micronutrients, vitamins and fats for diets, particularly in developing countries– and they play an essential part in agriculture, acting as irrigators and making the soil more fertile thanks to nutrients in the river’s sediments.
They give us jobs; they are means of transport and a source of energy. Finally, we used them for travelling and for recreational purposes.
The great significance that rivers have in our life is therefore undeniable and it’s for these reasons that we have to protect them and preserve them.
What should we protect them from?
Pollution; Threat of Drying Up; Invasive Species, Habitat Destruction, Overfishing, Climate Change
How can we do so?
Avoid littering (anywhere, it’ll always make its way to a water stream), Commit to reduce your carbon footprint in every possible way, get informed about what species should / should not be in the river you are looking at, make informed choices about what kind of fish you eat and how and where it was caught.
For additional information on freshwaters and rivers you can consult the following websites:
www.marine.ie ; www.freshwaterscience.ie ; www.epa.ie ; www.fisheriesireland.ie
You can find out all about our watery wildlife by downloading the factsheets and if you want to get a closer look at what’s lurking in your local lake, why not make an underwater viewer? Click below to find out how!