Since the industrial revolution our rivers and streams have increasingly suffered from the impacts of anthropogenic activities – from pollution caused by heavy industry, agriculture and construction, to over-abstraction and canalisation. Many of these impacts have resulted in the decline of biodiversity and a reduction in resilience of freshwater ecosystems. However, in recent decades great strides have been made towards reversing these impacts, improving water quality and habitats, as well as better managing our use of the water we extract. There has also been greater recognition of the way river catchments can help us combat averse flood events, for example through habitat restoration and natural flood management. For Wales in particular, landmark legislation in the form of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and the Environment Act have given us a broad framework under which to improve things even further.
There is of course still much to do and many of our freshwater systems are still under threat. This conference aims to present a broad picture of what has been achieved so far, showcase projects that have had the greatest positive impact and explore opportunities for innovative approaches in the future. Bringing together statutory bodies, water companies, private sector consultants, local authorities and NGOs, we will examine ways in which we can truly manage our freshwater resources sustainably and bring our rivers back to life, for life.