Skip links

Oxford College rowers honour River Action in boat naming ceremony

Rowers at a University of Oxford college have named a boat in honour of River Action, whose mission is to save the UK’s rivers from pollution.

The women’s eights first team rowers at Linacre College named their boat ‘River Action’ to honour the campaign group’s work drawing global attention to water pollution on the River Thames believed to be caused by Thames Water.

In the run up to the historic Gemini Boat Race between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, water quality experts from River Action, in partnership with Fulham Reach Boat Club, conducted E.coli tests on the stretch of the Thames used for the race.

Using a World Health Organization verified E.Coli analyser, the tests revealed levels of E.coli up to 10 times higher than what the Environment Agency considers acceptable for designated bathing waters graded poor, the bottom of four categories.  When bathing water is graded ‘poor’ the Government’s advice is against bathing. The testing locations suggest that the source of pollution was from Thames Water discharging sewage directly into the River Thames and its tributaries.

Principal of Linacre College, Dr Nick Leimu-Brown said, “The River Thames is part of the identity and daily life of our university, and we are horrified that its polluted waters are now such a risk to wildlife and public health.”

Linacre Boat Club President, Sydney Rose said, “Linacre Boat Club is proud to support the vision of River Action UK to preserve the health of this cherished historic waterway and the people who gather around it.”

CEO of River Action James Wallace said, “It is humbling that the women’s first team eights at Linacre College have honoured River Acton, naming their boat after us. It is a privilege to lead a team of committed campaigners drawing attention to the pollution crisis on our rivers caused, in part, by the water companies allowing tens of thousands of hours of sewage to enter our rivers every year. The damage this does to human health, to river health is incalculable.

“Rowers spend so much of their time on rivers, and they know better than most, because many of them are getting sick, the awful state of our waterways.  Too many of the UK’s rivers are contaminated with sewage because the water companies have, since privatisation 30 years ago, failed to upgrade their infrastructure, favouring instead to reward shareholders with multi-billion-pound dividends.

“We have had enough of this corporate greed and putting polluters’ interests before the interests of the environment.  Together with the rowing community, including all the rowers at Linacre College, we are standing up for river health, placing the polluters on notice that we will hold you accountable.  We have the same message for the government which fails to enforce environmental laws that are there to protect rivers.”

For interviews call Ian Woolverton on 07377 547 362 or email

Notes to editor
In response to the UK’s river pollution crisis and recognising that rowers spend a huge amount of their daily lives either on or by the water, British Rowing, River Action, and The Rivers Trust developed a set of guidelines for rowing on poor quality water. 

‘Guidance on rowing when water quality is poor’ has been written to minimise the risk of contracting illness due to proximity to polluted water. Included are helpful tips on the importance of covering cuts, grazes, and blisters with waterproof dressings, taking care not to swallow river water that splashes close to the mouth, wearing suitable footwear when launching or recovering a boat, and cleaning all equipment thoroughly. The new guidance has been issued to rowing clubs across the country.

River Action is on a mission to rescue Britain’s rivers by raising awareness of pollution and water shortages and applying pressure on industrial and agricultural producers, water companies, and others. The group brings awareness to the crisis facing our rivers, and the failure of Government funded environmental agencies to address this. To learn more about River Action:

Leave a comment