A picture of a severely blocked culvert.

Neglected watercourses are essentially poorly maintained and often unimpeached local rivers, streams and tributaries. These waterways can be home to wildlife including birds, fish and plants so they’re usually greatly affected by man-made problems. Neglecting these waterways is a big problem because not only do they provide essential resources to a wide range of animals but they also shape the wilder side of our environment.

What are neglected watercourses?

Waterways can be defined as any river or stream that has been neglected or not cared for properly. Neglected waterways have been damaged by pollution and other environmental problems such as land erosion, overuse and poor management practices. These waterways can also be impacted by natural disasters such as flooding or landslides that destroy trees which naturally prevent erosion.

What are neglected culverts?

Culverts are pipes or tunnels that allow water to flow beneath roads, railways, and other infrastructure. They are an important part of our drainage system, helping to prevent flooding and protect against erosion. However, culverts can become neglected over time, causing problems for the environment.

Neglected culverts can block the flow of water, causing flooding. They can also cause erosion, as the water flowing through them can erode the surrounding soil. This can lead to damage to roads and buildings, as well as environmental damage.

Neglected culverts can also provide a habitat for pests and animals, which can spread diseases. In some cases, they can even collapse, posing a danger to people and property.

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How does this affect wildlife?

Birds, fish and mammals use waterways for their survival so if these watercourses are not maintained properly then it can mean the end for these species in some cases. Some examples include:

The effects of a neglected watercourse can have a detrimental impact on the wildlife that uses it. The watercourse is a valuable resource for many species, including birds and fish.

Many animals use watercourses as a source of food, shelter and water. Some animals depend on them for their very existence. Birds are often seen along waterways, while fish are often found in large numbers near streams and rivers.

Insects and other small creatures also rely on these waterways for survival. For example, insects sometimes lay their eggs in watercourses, which can lead to the growth of insect larvae. These larvae then become food for other animals such as birds or fish when they hatch out into adulthood.

Animals that live in watercourses also depend on them for survival and reproduction. Some birds are dependent on wetland habitats as breeding grounds, while others use these areas during migration season to restock their energy reserves before continuing their journey southwards.

How are these problems being dealt with?

The problems of neglected watercourses are being dealt with in a variety of ways. One method is to install culverts and drainage pipes under the banks and walls of the watercourse, to channel water away from the site or into a collection point. Another method is to divert rainwater into nearby drains or gullies and so prevent it from entering the watercourse.

Other methods include:

Removing debris and rubbish from the bank: Debris such as old tyres, plastic bottles, discarded furniture, and bricks and so on can cause flooding when they wash into watercourses during heavy rainfall. Integral to this problem is rubbish that has been dumped in or near watercourses for some time without being removed by local authorities.

A large proportion of this material is unsaleable and therefore does not end up in landfill sites. Instead it ends up in landfill sites owned by private landowners who are typically not responsible for clearing their own land. This results in problems for wildlife like the loss of habitat and pollution, which can lead to death by entanglement or drowning.

Planting trees along the banks: Planting trees along riverside banks helps to remove debris from the water course and provides a food source for wildlife as well as helping to stabilize bank erosion at certain times of year (e.g., after heavy summer rainfall). Trees also provide shade during hot weather periods which helps reduce water temperatures in some areas by an average 12 degrees Celsius (22 degrees Fahrenheit).

Constructing retaining walls: Constructions retaining walls are built along the banks of the watercourse to prevent erosion and prevent soil clogging up culverts. These walls can be made from anything that is strong enough to hold back the water, such as concrete or steel.

Clearing vegetation from around culverts: Vegetation around culverts is cleared away so that they do not become blocked when it rains.

Constructing bridges over watercourses: Bridges over watercourses (where possible) are constructed to prevent flooding when it rains heavily or when there are high tides.

Using fish weirs to control fish populations: Fish weirs are used to control fish populations in rivers that flow through private land as well as preventing any pollution caused by overfishing or other environmental problems such as eutrophication.

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What you can do to help

The problems of neglected watercourses are being dealt with in a variety of ways. One method is to install culverts and drainage pipes under the banks and walls of the watercourse, to channel water away from the site or into a collection point. Another method is to divert rainwater into nearby drains or gullies and so prevent it from entering the watercourse.

1. Do not litter: Litter is one of the biggest problems facing our waterways and can have a devastating effect on wildlife.

2. Avoid dumping waste: Avoid dumping waste into local watercourses if possible. If you do need to dispose of waste, ensure that it is placed in an appropriate waste bin or receptacle (for example, an organic compost bin).

3. Amount of Water: Be mindful of the amount of water you use in your garden and landscape. This will help minimize any potential impact on local wildlife and habitats.

4. Speak to your neighbours: Speak to your neighbours about their water usage and the impacts they may be having on local wildlife, habitats and water quality through their domestic activities, such as lawns, ponds and ornamental fish tanks (both domestic and commercial).

5. Support local conservation groups: They are often the first to notice when degraded habitats are being threatened, and often have the resources and expertise to act on their knowledge.

6. Don’t flush your toilet: Don’t flush your toilet without taking care not to pollute the waterway that drains into it, or use a septic tank in an area where there are no other options for waste disposal.

7. Avoid using pesticides: Avoid using pesticides or fertilizers near waterways, as they can wash into them and harm wildlife living there.

8. Don’t dump rubbish: Don’t dump rubbish along watercourses, as this can cause a build-up of debris that chokes out wildlife from their habitats and makes it harder for them to survive in these areas.

9. Design Development According to Wildlife: Make sure that any development you do on land near waterways is designed with wildlife in mind and does not threaten any species present there.

10. Plant trees: along the banks of your local river, stream and canal. These will provide shade, shelter and food for wildlife.

11. Plant flowers: Plant flowers along the banks of your Local River, stream and canal. These will provide food and shelter for bees, butterflies and other insects.

12. Plant native plants: Plant native plants in your garden and around your home; this will encourage wildlife to visit your property as well as providing a habitat for native birds that may be on the verge of extinction elsewhere in their range.

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Bottom Line

Neglected watercourses and culverts can have significant impacts on the surrounding environment and the animals which live within it. Neglecting them can have deeply negative effects on not just that area but on the wider surrounding area.

This is why both governments and individuals should work together to preserve these areas. The actions of one person can make a big difference to the lives of some animals, so while neglected watercourses have been affected by humans, we have the power to help make positive change for them as well.