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Race for Rivers: World First Paddle Boarding Relay to Monitor Quality of Nation’s Waterways

Planet Patrol led by Lizzie Carr MBE launches the worlds first SUP relay..... 641 km - 100s of volunteers -32 days - 8 cities

From Monday 11th September 2023, paddle boarders across the UK will unite to take on a world first challenge: to complete a 641 km relay across the length of England’s connected waterways, testing water quality along the way.

The challenge, organised by environmental movement Planet Patrol, marks the launch of its nationwide citizen science water quality testing programme and will start on the River Wey in Godalming, Surrey – the most southerly point of England’s connected waterway network and also one of the worst performing sites in Planet Patrol’s water quality pilot.

The relay will cover the equivalent of 15 back-to-back marathons. Volunteers will undertake distances varying from 2km to 20km before handing over the paddleboard to the next participant at each changeover and can sign up here to get involved.

Paddle boarders will be armed with sampling kits to test water quality every 5km. Collectively they will gather more than 750 readings across parameters including nitrites, nitrates, phosphates, coliform bacteria, PH levels and water temperature This will give an indication of the overall health of England’s rivers, powered entirely by the people.

All findings will be recorded in Planet Patrol’s app and will help provide a real-time overview of water quality to fill the knowledge gaps left by a 74% reduction in water quality monitoring over the last ten years due to government funding cuts.

Planet Patrol founder, Lizzie Carr MBE, who was the first person in history to solo paddle board the route in 2016, said: “England has some of the most beautiful waterways in the world, but for years they have been used as a dumping ground for chemicals, sewage and other pollutants. We need to understand the true extent of the problem so it can be accurately understood, communicated and acted upon before the damage is irreversible.

Race for Rivers is not just a challenge; it’s a pressing call to action to protect our blue spaces. Retracing this route as a community rather than an individual feels incredibly poignant. We’re running out of time and the value of citizen science must be recognised and formally incorporated as part of the solution to tackling gaps in monitoring.

The route passes 41 sewage outflows as well as offices for Severn Trent Water and Thames Water, two of the biggest offenders of sewage pollution.

Volunteers will need to keep to strict timings with military precision and navigate a variety of conditions, including paddling upstream on tidal Thames, portaging more than 190 locks and passing over landmarks including Lune aqueduct.

The relay will have live tracking from 11th September for people to follow along and support virtually or in person, available here.

Learn more & sign up here

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