1 Riverprize - International RiverFoundation

Thiess International Riverprize

Congratulations to the 2022 European River Prize finalists!

Learn about the 3 innovative finalists below

Cumbrian Rivers 

The Lake District National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site situated within the country of Cumbria. The rivers of the Lake District form an integral component of the outstanding universal value of the area, which has been shaped by upland farming and intensive dairy agriculture in the valley bottoms for many centuries. All the watercourses within Cumbria have at some point been modified or altered to create space for farming practices, reflected in the poor quality of many of these rivers. This mismanagement of the watercourses has exacerbated the effects of several severe flood events in recent years, with the area also suffering degradation of designated protected areas (SSSI and SAC) and a severe decline in biodiversity. The Cumbria River Restoration partnerships programme has delivered over 100 projects of various scales in the Lake District. Statistics summarising 31 of the largest restoration projects indicate that almost 100 km of river length have been improved and almost 150 ha of associated floodplain restored. As the programme has evolved, targeted interventions to rejuvenate former systems dynamics have been implemented, with additional work to re-naturalise many of the tributaries discharging into the main rivers. All this practical work has been accompanied by engagement, training, and educational initiatives ranging from community events, volunteer days, internal and external training, conference and workshop presentations. 

Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers 

Covering a substantial section of the European Green Belt, the Mura, Drava and Danube Rivers (MDD) form a dynamic and interconnected lifeline in Central Europe. In 2021, the MDD area became the world’s first UNESCO 5-country Biosphere Reserve as a model region for connecting nature conservation and sustainable development. Conflicting land uses such as past and planned regulation of natural river courses, extraction of river sediments and planned hydropower dams are threatening the ecological integrity of this area, undermining the natural resilience against increasing floods and droughts and damaging economic assets such as rich ground and drinking water, flourishing forests, agriculture and fish populations. In response, the joint vision for the “Mura-Drava-Danube” area is to use the Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (TBR) concept to maintain a living river ecosystem for biodiversity and ecosystem services and to promote a nature-friendly economic development for local communities of this rural region. A joint effort of ministries, public authorities, protected area administrations, universities, local communes and NGOs are saving valuable sites, strengthening the TBR qualities and a harmonised sustainable regional development.  


Vjosa River 

The Vjosa River is one of the last wild rivers in Europe, and the river and its tributaries flow freely from the mountains in Greece to the Adriatic coast in Albania. The Vjosa is a dynamic river that not only supports biodiversity, but supports residents of the valley which homes of 4.6% of Albania’s total population. For years, however, planned dam projects have threatened the entire river system. If constructed, they will destroy this natural environment, flooding some parts of the valley while leaving others dry. The campaign to save one of Europe’s last wild rivers – the Vjosa in Albania – has been running for ten years as part of the Save the “Blue Heart of Europe” project, with a clear vision: stop the planned hydropower plants and create Europe’s first Wild River National Park (WRNP). The campaign has achieved many milestones such as: stopping a dam project; having the Albanian government declare the Vjosa a nature park in response to an online petition; and in 2022 – with the support of Patagonia Inc. – the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment signed a MoU declaring their intent to establish the Vjosa WRNP – a paramount stepping stone to achieving the goals of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.