With the goal of thriving rivers, and recognising the part they play across wider water health, United Utilities has deployed a team of six River Rangers across the North West with two focusing their time on Cumbrian waterways.

The new rangers will play an important role in helping the region’s rivers thrive. As well as engaging with local communities, they will be proactively patrolling the banks of rivers to check the company’s assets, organise maintenance, and clean litter and debris. 

Acknowledging their role as custodians of the North West’s waterways and the prominent part they play in their care, United Utilities has provided this new provision of people on the ground in addition to a recently announced £41 million investment for the Windermere Catchment. With the ability to quickly spot any issues and tackle them at the source, the River Rangers aim to positively impact water health far beyond regulatory requirements.

The Westmorland Gazette: The River Rangers will be patrolling the banks of rivers to check the company’s assets, organise maintenance, and clean litter and debris. The River Rangers will be patrolling the banks of rivers to check the company’s assets, organise maintenance, and clean litter and debris. (Image: United Utilities)

The work of the River Rangers is key to understanding the health of Windermere’s waterways, carrying out essential sampling activities to allow United Utilities and their partners to create a clearer profile of river water quality across the region.

Recently, the locality helped survey Windermere’s waters with over 100 volunteers getting involved in sampling. The Big Windermere Survey is the largest citizen science project ever conducted on Lake Windermere. Hosted by The Freshwater Biological Association alongside Lancaster University, the samples were analysed for nutrients and bacteria, producing the largest snapshot of conditions in Windermere to date.

The sampling undertaken by the rangers will support this work and, with this new resource on the ground, more community projects can be facilitated - cleaning up Windermere, gathering vital intelligence into water quality, and informing the work that is needed to improve the lake.

Dale Hull is one of the new Cumbrian River Rangers. After working with United Utilities for a number of years in wastewater treatment, he jumped at the opportunity to become a River Ranger.

“I thought that the experience I had with United Utilities would help me fulfil the role. When the opportunity came up, I knew it was for me as I’m an outdoors person. I’m always outside taking the dogs for walk – I would just like to see more wildlife return to certain areas.”

Working with the community is a key aspect of the new role. United Utilities is taking steps to fix what’s within their control, but a holistic approach is needed, including collaboration with partners, NGOs, and businesses. Engaging with regular users of rivers to address their concerns is something Dale is looking forward to.

“We’re going to be meeting with local stakeholders to build up a relationship. I’m looking forward to working with the community to work together to look after our environment. We’re going to undertake testing to make sure United Utilities can address any pollution quickly and I want to help the public understand their role in protecting the rivers.”

While there is no one background or route to becoming a River Ranger, there’s one attribute which is non-negotiable. The rangers have a love of the environment and are passionate about seeing it thrive. Each has their own aspirations for the future of our waterways and take their role in environmental stewardship seriously. Being from the South Lakes, Dale has a personal connection to the area.

“If areas have a lot of litter and they’re not being looked after, the general public are less likely to go there. I’ve found all sorts of rubbish that’s been discarded in the river. In this role you’ll never be surprised what gets pulled out. I want to help clean up these areas so we can get the public back.”

The ongoing investment allows the company to carry out innovative work, alongside partners, that champions Lake Windermere so that the water is healthier for the whole community to enjoy. The implementation of River Rangers is only one such measure. From wildlife restoration projects to scientific research, the priority is tackling pollution at source to make the North West a cleaner, greener, safer place to live.

Louise Beardmore, CEO of United Utilities, said: “I’m thrilled to welcome the first of our River Rangers into post.  Only by working with partners and local communities can we tackle the issues that face our rivers and the Rangers will play a vital role in engaging with people around our assets.

“We are determined to play our part in improving river water quality across the region and this type of initiative builds on our ambitious investment plans that will deliver real benefits to the environment and our communities.”

The River Rangers programme aims to bring together volunteers and experts to monitor the quality of the water in Windermere and the surrounding areas. The initiative provides a range of opportunities for the local community to get involved and engage with their local environment - from educational activities to volunteering opportunities for residents who want to make a positive impact in their community.

Those living and working around Cumbria are encouraged to speak to their River Rangers, point out any problem areas, or ask about the wider work United Utilities is doing. By working together, natural resources can be protected for future generations, and everyone can enjoy a healthy and sustainable environment.

If you’d like more information about River Rangers, the work United Utilities is doing in the area, or to get involved yourself, please visit unitedutilities.com/windermere.