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What are the Cleanest Rivers in the World?

Posted on May 30, 2019

Unfortunately, many rivers in the world hold the stature of being exceedingly polluted due to human littering and lack of filtration systems. However, there are a few examples of rivers being cleaned to revert them back to their natural state. Water is a source of life for all biological life on earth, and so the pollution of it is a crisis, not only for humans, but for species across the world. One river can be a source of life for millions of species, so it’s important to maintain cleanliness so we can support biological diversity in our local environments.

There are still a number of rivers around the world that are completely clean. These are a great example for those who want to clean their local rivers but are unsure of where to start.


River Thames – London, UK

London thames river

This one may surprise many readers, that one of the cleanest rivers in the world is in the United Kingdom. But the river Thames has been through a lot of changes since the beginning of the 1800’s. Up until 1814, the river Thames used to freeze over and events were held on the ice every winter. Since then, temperatures have risen and the population has surged, which lead to the ‘Great Stink’ in 1858. The Great Stink was a period in which the pollution of the Thames became so bad (because people dumped sewage in the water, which was also used as a source of drinking water) that it was declared biologically dead and closed the Houses of Parliament during the worst of it.

Additionally, there were four large cholera outbreaks during 1866 which solidified in the public and government officials’ minds that something needed to be done. A lot of strict legislation was put in place to ensure there was no dumping of waste products in the river and that cleaning mechanisms were used to collect litter already in the water. Today, the river is regarded as one of the cleanest in the world and there is currently a Thames Tideway Scheme under construction at a cost of £4.2 billion to stop raw sewage from entering the river during heavy rain.


Tara River – Bonsia-Herzegovina – Europe

Tara river bridge, Bosnia-Herzegovina

This river is one of the cleanest rivers in the world, with its water originating from clear well springs and tributaries; the river also forms the deepest European canyon. The lack of polluting influences has given this river some of the best quality water in the world, which gave it protection by UNESCO’s World’s Natural Heritage and the World’s Biosphere Reserve. In 2004, there were proposals for a dam to be built to harness the power and stop flooding, but global backlash prevented this from happening due to the rarity of the river water and possible damage to the wildlife.


St. Croix River – Minnesota – North America

St. Croix river, Minnesota

264 kilometers in length, this river flows through the U.S. states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and is predicted to be over 1 billion years old. Protected under the National Park Service, this river helps generate electricity for a hydroelectric plant that powers Minneapolis. However, the river has not always been this clean. During the 1830’s, there was a logging industry which used the river as one of the main forms of transportation for the logs. This heavily polluted the river to the point it almost destroyed the rivers biodiversity. In 1915, the public and government took charge and decided to clean it back to its original state.



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