The Rivers Return


Back in winter 2011 members of the SFAS took part in a letter writing campaign to the minister in charge of DEFRA complaining about water quality in the Irwell, and at the same time telling them how much the clean up of the river meant to them.

It was good timing, because  The Angling Trust were at the same time taking DEFRA to court over their failure to adhere to the European Water Framework Directive.

Salford Friendly were delighted when it was announced that the River Irwell was one of only 10 UK rivers to become “Pilot Projects” for the implementation of these new environmental standards.

The EA had their hand forced and were required by central government to set up an Irwell working group to come up with a strategy to improve the Irwell.

We have, as a society attended these monthly meetings, and have made a big contribution towards its findings and policies. The group was originally called “The Irwell Pilot” but has now been renamed “The Rivers Return”.

Its members include United Utilities, The Highways Agency, Association Of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), Lancashire Wildlife Trust, The Red Rose Forest, Groundwork Trust, The Environment Agency, Forestry Commission,

If you would like to take a look at what the EA have come with have a read of this document.

The Irwell Catchment Pilot Final

Interesting reading.

We will update you as to whats going on in the rivers return group on a regular basis  via this website.

Next summer SFAS members will be asked to take part in a “Greening The River” work party – where we plant new stands of ranunculus in the Irwell – which will provide better spawning habitat for coarse fish, better fry refuge and generally improve the ecology of the river as a whole. We hope you put your name down for this project when we announce full details next spring.



Here is the “official” blurb


The Rivers Return is an exciting and innovative project that aims to regenerate the water environment in the Irwell river catchment with the integrated benefit of supporting economic growth and social enterprise. The Government has asked organisations to work in partnership to identify local actions to improve water quality within their Catchments and initiated a Catchment Approach Pilot in 2011.

Ten Pilots were initially established with a further 15 in January 2012. The 25 pilot groups were asked to report back to Defra with their findings and progress in December 2012.

The Rivers Return Project (Irwell Catchment Pilot) is one of ten pilots hosted by the Environment Agency. The catchment incorporates the Rivers Irwell, Croal, Roch, Medlock and Irk which drain the western Pennines and flow through the Pennine Fringe and Greater Manchester conurbation before joining the Manchester Ship Canal at Salford Quays. Evidence suggests that diffuse urban pollution (e.g. dirty water coming from roads, badly connected sewers and old landfills) and physical modifications to rivers (e.g. weirs, culverts and artificial river banks) may be key reasons for many of the rivers and lakes in the Irwell Catchment not achieving legally required standards of water quality.

The Irwell Catchment Pilot is steered by a multi-sector group representing community groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), local authorities, the Environment Agency (a non-departmental public body), business, and academia

The primary aim of the Rivers Return is to protect and improve water environments which it proposes to achieve by testing new approaches to stakeholder engagement; information sharing; co-ordination of action at a Catchment and local level; and stimulating engagement from across society and business.

This summary report presents the key objectives of the Rivers Return Catchment Plan.


  1. Yes I have noted with interest the projects taking place at smithy bridge ( roch) and three united utilities works near to the Irk. I would like to volunteer for any working parties with sfas.

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