Funding for Environment Agency Waterways

IWA is campaigning for the 650 miles of navigations currently managed by the Environment Agency to be properly funded.

Along with its many environmental responsibilities, the Environment Agency manages the navigation of waterways such as the River Thames and the River Medway in the south east, many waterways in the Anglian Region (River Ancholme, Black Sluice Navigation, River Great Ouse, River Nene, River Stour, River Welland and the River Glen), as well as Lydney Harbour and Rye Harbour, its two remaining ports.

Current Situation

The current situation is that funding for EA navigations is largely dependent on annually determined grant-in-aid from the government. The EA’s own figures from February 2015 disclosed that “a minimum funding requirement of £4.25m per annum… would see a slow deterioration of overall asset condition and require a larger investment towards the end of the Spending Review period to renovate a number of assets to ensure our waterways remained open and safe”.

Based on these figures, and the forecast 2015/16 spend of only £2.2m, capital investment in 2015/16 will be less than half of that needed to maintain assets in “a slow deterioration”. At the very least, despite the eff orts of EA staff this must be increasing the risk of a signifi cant breakdown in some major assets – and, at worst, an avoidable serious failure.

Proposed Solution

As a solution to the funding crisis affecting Environment Agency Waterways, we are campaigning for the navigations currently managed by the EA to be transferred to Canal & River Trust, with an appropriate funding package.

Whilst funding for Canal & River Trust was guaranteed for 15 years from 2012, budget for the navigation function of the Environment Agency (which was originally proposed to be part of the new waterway charity when Canal & River Trust was being set up), is still subject to cuts to Defra grant-in-aid.

The transfer of the Environment Agency waterways to Canal & River Trust would provide a more sustainable, innovative and efficient inland waterway system for more than two thirds of the waterways of mainland UK. The larger organisation would have more clarity of purpose and ability to partner with others with overlapping objectives in public leisure and awareness of the resource inland waterways represent. The transfer will potentially also reduce pressure on the public purse, as the combined organisation is freed from the constraints of government controls and able to better focus on customer requirements and effective asset management.

Benefits would include:

  • Secure funding (subject to an appropriate funding package from Government)
  • Improved maintenance through long term asset management plans
  • Third party funding opportunities
  • Economies of scale to be gained from being part of a larger navigation authority


Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency have formed a joint working group, which will explore different options for the running of river navigations currently managed by the Environment Agency.

Alongside this, IWA has been encouraging MPs of all parties to support the transfer through a letter writing campaign so that it remains Government policy.

Find out More

Find out more about the campaign in our briefing note.

You can also take a look at campaign updates and some answers to frequently asked questions about the campaign.

Photo: River Welland - Fulney Lock by Kate Jewell

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Funding for EA Waterways

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