The Health of the River Aire

Our river has always been part of our heritage. The Yorkshire word for our streams, Beck, points us towards Viking invaders who brought the word with them. The Industrial Revolution played a great part in shaping our landscape and cities like Bradford and Leeds. Many of the weirs that powered the mills that lined the river remain as barriers to fish migration. Below Leeds the Aire was canalised to form part of the Aire and Calder Navigation, an action that now brings increased flood risks to our cities. Gladly the gross pollution from sewage and industry is a distant memory and our river teams with wildlife.

The Aire forms part of the Aire and Calder river catchment, which sits within the Humber River Basin. When we look at water quality, we split the Aire into 3 sub catchments or operational catchments. Upper, Middle and Lower Aire.

The River Aire and its becks /tributaries, run through both rural and urban environments all the way from Malham to Airmyn. Water quality is better than it has ever been, but there is still a lot more we can do.

Our main concerns on the River Aire are from urban pollution, water industry inputs and agriculture. There is a need to reduce the impact of our industrial heritage. This could be removing weirs or renaturalising man-made culverts.
Sewage pollution from a misconnected drain or failing combined sewer overflow
Please report to the Environment Agency on 0800 807060
Flytipping discourages visitors to the river and spreads plastic pollution
Please report to your local Council

The Environment Agency and other organisations gather data and evidence on water quality. Under Water Framework Directive work they have assessed the quality of rivers and streams on the Aire. You can find out more about your local water course at Catchment Data Explorer.

If you are interested in helping to gather information on our rivers you might like to get involved through Riverfly invertebrate sampling or other citizen science project such as photographing pollution or invasive species growing along the river.
There is just one water body already at ‘Good’ water quality on the Aire (although we are hopeful that there will be more under 2019 data – yet to be confirmed), the majority are at ‘Moderate’.

We want to reach ‘Good’ Water Framework Directive (WFD) status or ‘Good Ecological Potential’ for all of them by 2027. 
This is a BIG challenge.
We want to see more natural rivers, with fish returning to their natural environments. In our upper reaches we will find more trout and grayling, and more coarse fish in the lower reaches and Salmon and other migratory species will reach their spawning grounds in the catchment.

Movement of migratory species will soon be free on the main River Aire having removed barriers to fish passage through projects such as DNAire.

Our ambition is to work with partners to do the same on the becks and rivers that run into the River Aire such as the River Worth at Keighley, and smaller becks all along the catchment.
We want to see space for water, habitat and biodiversity in urban areas development, making better places for healthy people and a healthy environment.
Partnership projects are key to delivering improved water quality in Yorkshire and on the Aire. Catchment Partnerships work with lots of different partners to look at what the whole catchment needs and help deliver multi-benefit outcomes for the catchments, including linking water quality improvements with habitat and biodiversity improvements, and working with natural processes/natural flood management.

© Copyright Aire Rivers Trust 2020
The Aire Rivers Trust is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales No: 07464227 and a Registered Charity No: 1145609
Registered Office at: 38 Morton Lane, East Morton, Keighley BD20 5RS
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