Drinkable river campaigners walk the Thames

Li An Phoa and Maaraten van der Schaaf are walking 350km from the sourceof the Thames River to the North Sea.

Two water campaigners and educators are walking the length of the Thames River to highlight their mission to make the world's rivers drinkable.

Li An Phoa is the founder of Drinkable Rivers, a foundation based in the Netherlands, that works towards a world with drinkable rivers through inspiring walks, events, research, education and mobilisation events. Together with her partner, journalist Maarten van der Schaaf, she is walking 350km (220 miles) from the source of the Thames in the Cotswolds, to its mouth at the North Sea, from 17 September to 17 October.

Along the way, the pair will meet farmers, school children, anglers, bankers, politicians and policy makers, and talk with them about their vision for a world with drinkable rivers and to mobilise people to care for the Thames. Phoa and Van der Schaaf invite everyone who is interested to join their walk, which will explore what the Thames means for the people they meet, and discover how people respond to their vision of drinkable rivers.

Children in Wallingford meet Li Ann and Maarten on their walk to help measure water quality.

In order to bring the conversation about the Thames to the dinner table, Phoa and Van der Schaaf will stay with locals who welcome them in their homes along the route. The day-to-day schedule of the walk is published at on the Drinkable Rivers website, and people can register or just join one of the meeting places indicated.

Citizen science

Together with local children, Phoa and Van der Schaaf will monitor the water quality of the Thames on a daily basis in a citizen science initiative. Their findings will form a baseline study of the water quality of the Thames from source-to-sea.

The study will be part of Drinkable Rivers’ international citizen science programme, which helps people monitor the health of their rivers. Ultimately, it also helps them to track progress towards their goal: a world with drinkable rivers. Over the past ten years, Li An has walked more than 18.000km for a world with drinkable rivers.

The couple's river walks include citizen science projects to monitor water quality.

Events have been taking place through the month, with a film screening and panel at the University of Arts London taking place on 9 October, where they will launch their book Drinkable Rivers: How the River Became my Teacher, and a closing event at the Dutch Embassy on 17 October.