The Canal & River Trust, the charity which protects and preserves 2,000 miles of inland waterways in England and Wales, today, at the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Waterways held at the Houses of Parliament, launched a headline report setting out the economic and social value of its 250-year-old waterway network.

Presenting the report to MPs, Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, announced that the combined annual economic and social value of the waterways amounts to £6.1 billion.  This includes £1.5 billion annual economic value from water-based tourism and jobs, and annual social value of £4.6 billion, which includes £1.1 billion cost saving to the NHS from active use of the waterways and the towpaths.

To quantify the benefits, the Trust worked with social-value experts, Simetrica-Jacobs, with all methodology aligning with 2022 HM Treasury Green Book valuation techniques.

Furthermore, the integrity of the canal network’s reservoir dams, embankments and thousands of other historic infrastructure assets, also protects homes, businesses and national infrastructure such as electricity sub-stations and utilities. Again, using HM Treasury Green Book methodology, this has a protection value of £42 billion.

Richard Parry comments: “This report and analysis captures how the Trust’s work to protect and preserve the nation’s historic canal network delivers positive outcomes for society. These include the value of the canal network in terms of supporting jobs, the visitor economy, and the unique welfare benefits delivered by providing access to nature and the outdoors in urban areas, often in society’s most deprived communities. No other UK charity brings so much free blue and green space to the doorsteps of so many.

“However, the nation’s 250-year-old canal network is also old and fragile. Together with government, the Trust bears a huge financial responsibility for the meticulous day-to-day care required to keep this precious network safe and navigable and, in turn, available for society to benefit from and to protect the homes, businesses and critical national infrastructure that runs on or alongside it.

“Through championing the benefits of the network for low carbon transport and tourism, sustainable drainage, water transfer and generation of low carbon energy, we can ensure that the next chapter in the history of the waterways sees them help society mitigate the effects of climate change.”

The headline report titled Waterways & Wellbeing – Valuing Our Waterways can be downloaded from