Campaign organisers the Ribble Rivers Trust hope their work will turn a spotlight on the need to improve water quality in all local rivers.
It would be the river would be placed on a list of areas which are regularly monitored for water quality.
The Trust hopes Edisford Bridge, on the outskirts of Clitheroe, will be granted the status.
Charlotte Ireland, the Trust’s fundraising officer, said: “As an ever-popular picnic, bathing, swimming, paddling, fishing, and water sports spot, Edisford Bridge is an ideal candidate for Bathing Water Status.
"With people visiting from miles around to take a dunk in the Ribble’s waters, this is an area that is ever growing in popularity. However, like 86% of England’s rivers, the Ribble sadly fails to meet the criteria needed for ‘good’ ecological status or chemical status.”
Figures supplied by national charity The Rivers Trust show that in Clitheroe the waste treatment works overflowed 104 times in 2021 with discharges into Pendleton Brook, which leads to the Ribble, lasting for 1,511 hours. Charlotte said: “It's meant to happen a lot less than a dozen times a year in exceptional circumstances.”
In Preston, the main water treatment works which discharges into the Ribble estuary close to the sea, overflowed 95 times in 2021 for 1,181 hours.
The Trust says the campaign is a way of improving water quality for local wildlife and human communities. It also hopes it will raise awareness of rivers, their value as part of a balanced ecosystem and their importance to local residents.
It is now gathering data to show which harmful substances are present in the water and in what quantities, how many people visit Edisford Bridge, and the importance of the river to locals. Staff hope to submit the application in the autumn.
Charlotte said: “In an area like the Ribble Valley there are multiple contributing factors affecting water quality, including agricultural pollution, sewage pollution, and pollution from homes including septic tanks and misconnected drains and appliances. As well as helping people to make informed decisions about water quality before they take a dip, this status will encourage water industries and environmental bodies to take measures to lower pollution levels and deal with the problems facing our rivers head on.”
On Saturday, August 20, the Trust will set up stall at Edisford for a one day Festival of the Ribble. The event will provide more information about the river, its wildlife and how people can make a difference to river quality from home.
Throughout the campaign the Trust’s farm advisors will be available to give advice on water friendly farming and grant availability.
A series of river watch surveys are also planned.
A public consultation has already begun. To complete the Trust’s survey, visit ribbletrust.org.uk/edisford-bridge-user-survey.
If successful this stretch of the Ribble would join a select list of inland rivers being monitored, including the Wharfe, which has benefitted from the Ilkley Clean River Campaign. All areas with Bathing Water Status are regularly monitored during the bathing season (May 15 to September 30) for bacteria detrimental to human health. Each site is then designated either excellent, good, satisfactory or poor.