Mersey Basin Campaign wins ‘Best River Clean-up in the World’ award

A 25-year initiative to clean up the Mersey River basin has been awarded the first international River Prize, beating more than one hundred other river regeneration schemes to win the award.

Asked why the Mersey Basin Campaign was chosen over programmes to clean up the Rhine, the Thames and the Mississippi, Julie Mullen of the Campaign told edie that the breadth of the Campaign’s partnerships with all parties connected with the Mersey Basin had been instrumental. “A lot of it had to do with our partnership effort,” Mullen said. “We go across the whole spectrum of involvement and it was that that really impressed.”

The Mersey Basin Campaign works with businesses, schools, farmers, environmental groups and local government in its clean-up effort. “Water quality is now 62% of the way to meeting our goal of 100% fish sustainability and we’re half why through the Campaign. Now, we’ve got to concentrate on that last 38%,” explains Mullen.

Of the challenges that remain for the Campaign, Mullen identified urban areas as a priority. “The rural areas have been easier to clean up than the urban areas like Manchester and Liverpool,” she acknowledged. “The Manchester Ship Canal has been particularly difficult, in part because it is a stagnant water.”

One of the key partners in the Mersey Basin Campaign is North West Water. The company’s investments in improved sewage treatment have had an important impact on water quality on many rivers and streams feeding the Mersey. “One worry is that Ofwat [the Office of Water Services] has not recommended North West Water’s AMP3 bid, which means that up to ten new wastewater treatment plants that North West planned may slip behind schedule,” said Mullen.

With negotiations continuing between North West Water and Ofwat, the water company did not want to comment on its Asset Maintenance Programme (AMP) proposal for the period 2000-2005, but did reiterate its plan to continue to participate in the Mersey Basin Campaign.

In the last decade, more than 170 separate projects have been undertaken by North West Water that have a direct effect on the water quality of rivers in the Mersey Basin. One of the largest projects is the construction of a £100 million sewage treatment works at Liverpool’s Sandon Dock.

The River Prize was awarded on 29 September at the Second International River Symposium in Brisbane, Australia. Judges for the prize included representatives from the International Association on River Quality, Stockholm Water Prize, World Wildlife Fund, Royal Australian Planning Institute and the River Festival Management Board. The award includes a cash prize equivalent to about £45,000.

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