Love the Lea

Organisation: Thames 21
Location: Lea Catchment
Type: Case Study

East London’s rivers are some of the most polluted in Britain, running with high levels of e-coli sewage bacteria, waste water from people’s homes and poisonous oils and chemicals from our roads. This polluted water flows down the Lea Valley past the homes of thousands of people, reducing the quality of the rivers they enjoy. Rivers of the Lea Catchment which fall within the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Hackney, Waltham Forest, Haringey, and Enfield are being impacted daily. To address this challenge Thames21 has launched the Love the Lea Campaign.

As an urban waterway the River Lea and its tributaries receive pollution from a variety of sources within the catchment. Right now polluted water enters the Lea through three main avenues: misconnections, road run-off and sewage overflow.

Thames21 has recognised that one way to stop polluted water from entering a river and take pressure off aging sewers is to create a natural drainage system or SuDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems). These direct rainwater off roads or car parks onto vegetated green space, so water goes into the ground instead of the drain!

Education and awareness is also a big part of what Thames21 does and we pride ourselves on making sure all our projects in the Lea Catchment include outreach to local schools and communities. Engagement with local communities has found that people simply don’t know what a misconnection is, and most are horrified if they discover they are polluting their local stream. To improve water quality ‘Project Reedbed’ introduces new vegetation into the waterways which breaks down pollutants, and provides habitats for wildlife.

Thames21 also offers training to people to host waterway clean-ups in their local area or to become a Citizen Scientist and monitor water quality. Thames21 relies on data collected by volunteers to inform projects and campaigns, identifying areas to target.


The Catchment-Based Approach website is designed to showcase the work of catchment partnerships aross England and Wales and to encourage the sharing and adoption of best practice in stakeholder-led catchment managment planning, delivery and evaluation.


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