Citizens’ Jury for the River Wharfe (Yorkshire) - Information Page

Closed 1 Apr 2022

Opened 31 Mar 2021


The Rethinking Water Citizens’ Jury was put together by the Environment Agency and a Local Advisory Group working with the Involve Foundation. The jury, which took place at the end of February/early March 2021, debated local issues, shared ideas and questioned environmental experts on all aspects of the water environment. This project to involve communities in decisions about the future of their local river took place in Yorkshire.

The River Wharfe Citizens’ Jury is made up of members of the public. It was tasked with examining what a ‘thoroughly modern river’ should be and with producing recommendations that will be used to guide the future of managing water for us and our partners.

The final six recommendations from the River Wharfe Citizens’ Jury are presented below (recorded video and written):

Recommendations from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

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We need a coordinated and strategic response to prevent and manage flooding, led by one organisation that has responsibility, accountability and oversight throughout the area. The response must:

  1. take into account different types of land use and timescales (short; medium and long-term plans);
  2. include natural flood management techniques upstream, downstream and on farmland;
  3. manage the effects of all developments (housing/commercial/urban); and
  4. include greater community involvement.

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To improve wildlife and biodiversity, we recommend that the Environment Agency coordinates action to:
  1. minimise the impact of invasive species (including eradication where possible);
  2. protect wildlife from unintentional impact from agriculture, leisure and pollution on river verges; and
  3. enable native species to thrive (including monitoring and reporting on water quality, and reintroducing keystone species).

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Water quality is important for public use and for wildlife. We recommend routine testing of the water at regular intervals along the River Wharfe to check the quality of the water and publish these results at information boards along the Wharfe and online (using a traffic light system).
We recommend identifying where the major pollutants are entering the waterways, enforce actions against key polluters and review existing penalties, and making this information public.
We recommend educating people about the importance of reducing pollution to incentivise the public to manage their water use and waste.

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Improving sewerage infrastructure increases the water quality which will lead to health, economic and social benefits, and decreases the water quantity, and will future proof our water system.
Yorkshire Water should develop their current 25 year plan on improving sewerage infrastructure to include SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bounddeliverables. This plan should be reviewed annually to measure their progress against targets and the outcomes should be published.
Yorkshire Water should work in partnership with the Environment Agency, local Councils, and the public to develop this strategy and these partners should hold them to account.

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That landowners, developers, statutory agencies and the public understand and mitigate the impact of development on the river and its catchment area. This needs to be achieved through better planning, communication, updating legislation (including on Sustainable drainage systems (SuDS)), enforcement and accountability measures, all underlined by education for politicians, professionals and the public.
Central to this is the appropriate funding of statutory agencies to enable them to adopt an evidence based approach that is monitored and constantly improved.

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Education and awareness raising is central to securing a river that is balanced and fit for purpose. Specifically, we need draw on success from other countries to implement a range of educational and awareness raising activities by all stakeholders to drive behavioural change similar to the drink driving and no smoking campaigns.
There needs to be the introduction of public champions, to reach everyone - from professionals to the public in a clear, understandable and compelling way. It’s about making change easier and rewarding.
Education needs to go beyond schools to creatively include community groups, artists and all media and play a major role in enforcement through a programme similar to the speed awareness course.

The findings from the juries will inform our future management plans.

The Local Advisory Group for this jury was made up of a range of organisations from public, private and charity sector. They chose to present different aspirations and visions for the River as a way of exploring the key issues and potential future changes. The River Wharfe jury listened to evidence from a broad range of environmental experts to ensure a balanced view, including:

  • RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)
  • Ilkley Clean Water
  • Yorkshire Water
  • Dales to Vale Rivers network
  • National Farmers Union
  • Bradford Council
  • Dales Rivers Trust

You can find all the evidence for these discussions by watching our presentation videos (below), and the Managing Water in Our Environment video here on our Environment Agency TV channel.

Session 1 Thursday 25th February

Michael Donnelly, Involve – introduction 

introduction - what is a citizen's jury from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Toni Scarr, Environment Agency – introduction 

Introduction from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Martin Christmas, Environment Agency - Overview of the River Wharfe 

Overview of the River Wharfe from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Session 2 Saturday 27th February

Dan Macey, Yorkshire Water – Resilience – A Healthy River for All 

Resilience – A Healthy River for All from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Kirsty Breaks-Holdsworth, Bradford Council - Climate Impacts - Natural flood management 

Climate Impacts - Natural flood management from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Iain McDonell, Environment Agency - Environmental Management - Channelling public money for public good 

Environmental Management - Channelling public money for public good from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

James Copeland, National Farmers Union - Agriculture in the Wharfe Catchment and what we do 

Agriculture in the Wharfe Catchment from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Session 3 Saturday 27th February

Stuart Pedder, Bradford Council - Planning - Development pressures and impact on the river 

Planning - development pressures and impact on river from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Daniel Wynn, RSPB - Wildlife of the river 

Wildlife of the river from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Charlotte Simons, Dales to Vale Rivers Network - Catchment management priorities on the Wharfe 

Catchment management priorities on the Wharfe from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Session 4  Thursday 4th March

Stephen Axford, Dales Rivers Trust - Users of the river - Issues and desires 

Users of the river - Issues and desires from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Becky Malby, Ilkley Clean River - Aspirations for the river 

Ilkley Clean River - Aspirations for the river from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.

Susan Gledhill, Bradford Council – Pressures of human activity on the river and its impacts 

Pressures of human activity on the river and its impacts from Rethinking Water on Vimeo.



  • NGOs


  • Business and industry
  • Flood management
  • Coastal management
  • Fishing and boating
  • Water resources
  • Water quality
  • Habitats and wildlife
  • Permits
  • Environmental permitting