River pollution in the 21st century has never been worse, but thankfully communities all around the planet have started making efforts to reduce pollution. Clean river success stories abound, from small suburban creeks to major river canal systems.
Pollution in rivers causes endangerment and extinction of river life and water flora. Untreated effluent and industrial waste from upriver cities is known to cause cancer in downstream populations in so many areas of the world, proving that fragile ecosystems and human populations depend on clean rivers for survival.
Cleaning up the world's waterways has become a major priority for environmental groups and some governments, with regular cleanup days organised for community volunteers who pick up rubbish and plant new water flora. As successful as these efforts are, in many cases they sadly aren't enough as most pollution requires filtration systems way beyond the abilities of community volunteers.
Cleanup programs are not a quick fix, they take time, energy, money and whole lot of hard work. Marine wildlife and water flora won't return and establish a presence until the water is clean enough to support them. In New York, the Hudson river contains several hundred thousand kilograms of PCB's discharged from factories upstream, requiring dredging of selected parts of the river bed and replacement of sediment. This mammoth task is expected to cost several hundred million dollars and still doesn't address the health of downstream fisheries.
Less expensive cleanup operations are more the norm, for example rubbish removal using floating barges, and small scale dredging of areas adjacent to effluent outlet pipes. These projects have been quite successful in major world cities such as Brisbane in Australia, Singapore, Glasgow in Scotland, Duesseldorf in Germany and so many others.
Clean river success stories are not isolated projects, almost every major waterway is coming under scrutiny offering hope that clean water and healthy river ecosystems will be part of humanity's future.