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Balancing the needs of waterways, wildlife and people

We are lucky to have some fantastic rivers, lakes, reservoirs and coastline in Wales, drawing in tourists from outside of Wales and directly supporting our economy, job creation, and business growth in the Welsh countryside

Any activity on our waterways, be it angling, canoeing, wild swimming, or gorge walking, has to carefully balance the needs of users, wildlife and the local environment.

Find out about arrangements to help balance the needs of our waterways, users, wildlife and the local environment.

Public Right of Navigation

Rights of access for water recreation are not set by Natural Resources Wales but determined by common law and legislation.

           i) Tidal Waters

In nearly all cases there is a public right of navigation on tidal waters. Be aware though that the right may be subject to a payment of harbour dues or restrictions due to security/exclusion zones or use by the Ministry of Defence. The tidal limits on waterways are shown on ordnance survey maps.

           ii) Non-tidal waters

The public right of navigation that exists on tidal waters does not apply to non-tidal waters although some sections of the River Severn, River Wye and River Dee in Wales do have a statutory right of navigation.

Voluntary Access Arrangements

In the absence of any proven legal right, access to some non-tidal waters has been formalised with a Voluntary Access Arrangement which gives an understanding of when the waterway can be used for water recreation alongside other interests.

Opportunities for water recreation contained on our website are those where a public right of navigation has been confirmed through statute, or where a partner organisation has facilitated a Voluntary Access Arrangement.

We are working to identify where additional opportunities for water related recreation lie on Natural Resources Wales landholding, and on land we manage on behalf of Welsh Government.


The depiction of rights of access does not imply or express any warranty as to its accuracy or completeness. Nothing on this website shall be construed as implying that there is, or that there is not, a public right of navigation over any non-tidal waters, or any part of those waters with the exceptions of the specifically mentioned sections of the rivers Dee, Wye and Severn.

As such you should not interpret it as a definitive map with respect to public rights of navigation. Those that are defined by statute have been included, along with others where access has been facilitated through a voluntary access arrangement [see above]

This information is provided by NRW at the request of the Welsh Government and also involves many water recreation related partners.

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