10 Cleanest Rivers in the World and Why They are So

Most rivers are clean at their source.

The answer to the question – ‘the cleanest rivers in the world’ is an almost impossible one to answer. This is because almost every river will be clean near its source or sources.

In this present age, the pollution of rivers in the world is increasing massively daily due to human activities such as industrial production, fast fashion, agriculture, chemical plants, animal agriculture, and fossil fuels amongst others.

This has led to many disease outbreaks, the death of many sea creatures, and the extinction of some others. Currently, some of the lives of these animals are threatened due to the constant pollution of these rivers and human health is also at risk.

Biodiversity in many rivers is also threatened. This article is written to celebrate the cleanest rivers in the world, and the efforts invested taken by individuals, government, and private sectors to change the current state of these rivers by cleaning them up and restricting regulate the disposal of industrial and hazardous waste.

10 Cleanest Rivers in the World

  • River Thames – London, UK
  • St. Croix River – Minnesota – North America
  • The Torne River – Europe
  • Tara River – Europe
  • The Caragh River – Europe
  • River Rhine
  • Manzanares River
  • Copenhagen Canal System
  • Umngot River – India
  • Onyx River – Indonesia

1. River Thames – London, UK

source: MDL Marinas

The first river in my list of the cleanest rivers in the world is River Thames, London. The pride of London.

This river has not always been so clean. It was once one of the most polluted rivers in the world, but efforts and projects such as the Thames Tideway Tunnel has helped to reduce the amount of raw sewage discharged into the river. Cleanup projects in recent years and is now one of the cleanest rivers in Europe.

Since then, amidst the dense population of London’s busy streets, the Thames River was surprisingly kept sparklingly spotless.

Did you know that the Thames River, hailed as the champion of the cleanest rivers in the world was once declared “dead”? It means that the water was so contaminated that the biodiversity that once thrived in its waters died.

It was so bad that the Thames River was called “The Great Stink” in the 1800s. This was a cholera outbreak due to households drinking water from the river.

2. St. Croix River – Minnesota, North America

Next on my list of the cleanest rivers in the world is St. Croix River, Minnesota.

The National Park Service designated the St. Croix River as a National Scenic Riverway. This river has its source from the Mississippi River. Its length is approximately 164 miles (264 kilometers) and runs across the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota in Northern America.

Like the story of the River Thames, in the 1830s, St. Croix River was one of the dirtiest instead primarily due to the activities of the lumber industry which peaked during that period. It was filled with logs and was used as means of transformation.

Thus, the river’s biodiversity was affected.

Around 1915, the public took charge of cleaning the river and slowly brought its life back to its full potential. It’s the reason life exists in the river – fish and countless other creatures.

The river is so clean thanks in part to a large forested watershed that helps filter out contaminants.

3. The Torne River – Europe

The third river in my list of the cleanest rivers in the world is the Torne River, Europe. It is widely acclaimed as the largest river in Norrbotten and its nearly pure state and ultra-clean waters.

It flows through northern Sweden and Finland, forming the border of these two countries.

It was the closest human village to Torne River, approximately 7 miles (12 kilometers) from the northeast of Kiruna. It is one of the cleanest rivers in the world because were mainly due to minimum human habitation. The closest village to the Thorn River is Kurravaara.

4. Tara River – Bonsia-Herzegovina, Europe

Tara River is also known as the Jewel of Europe and also the Tear of Europe.

source: Born Explorer

River Tara flows through the mountains of the Balkan countries of Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The river flows through the deepest European canyon.

The river is so clean that it has highly diverse biodiversity that is too dense that it is even said to harbor primeval species!

It is so clean primarily because it is one of UNESCO’s protected rivers under the World’s Natural Heritage and the World’s Biosphere Reserve.

A fiercely protected reserve. In 2004, a proposal was made to construct a dam at Drina and flood the Tara River. The public, not pleased with the plan, strongly resisted the plan with protests and petitions. Thus, the government was silenced and the plan was canceled.

And the river was left intact, maintaining its place as one of the cleanest rivers in the world.

5. The Caragh River – Europe

Located in the green meadows and rich farmlands of southwestern Ireland, the Caragh River has made it first to our list of cleanest rivers in the world.

The river is so clean because the river experience minimal pollution. It is protected by the National Conservation Law. It is home to countless species of freshwater fish. Fish thrive in the Cragh River so much that it is the number-one spot for salmon fishing in the country.

6. River Rhine – Europe

The Rhine is one of the major European rivers. It is ranked the second-longest river in Central and Western Europe. The Rhine River is estimated at 1,230 km.

Want to know a fun fact about the Rhine River? The River Rhine is called different names depending on the country it flows through. It is called Rhein in Germany, Rhine in France, and Rijn in the Netherlands.

The source of the River Rhine is the Swiss Alps. From two tributaries in the Alps of east-central Switzerland north and west to the North Sea, into which it drains through the Netherlands.

The Rhine used to be heavily polluted and stinking. Today, it supplies over 30 million people with high-quality treated drinking water mostly from riverbank filtrate.

7. Manzanares River, South America

The Manzanares River runs through Madrid.

It is in the vicinity of the El Pardo Royal Site. In the 1600s, the Duke of the Infantado named it Manzanares, in honor of his castle, Manzanares el Real (royal apple orchard) which overlooks the river. 

The river was the recipient of vast sugar cane plantations. Generally, water pollution was a contribution of agriculture, industrial, and human activities. After thorough sampling, analysis, and experiments, the wastewater polluted river began to improve.

8. Copenhagen Canal

Copenhagen is one of the cleanest cities in the world. Likewise, the Copenhagen River, also known as the Copenhagen Canal notable and cleanest river in the world.

It wasn’t always like this. Changed from a cesspool to a recreational and sustainable city.

Due to Copenhagen’s clean harbor water, the city was awarded the world’s best city according to CNN when it comes to swimming. Howbeit, only 15 years earlier, the discharge of wastewater from sewers and industrial companies made the water highly polluted and unsuitable for swimming.

The discharge of wastewater during rainfall played a major role. In 1995, a total of 93 overflow channels pumped wastewater directly into Copenhagen’s harbor and the adjacent coastlines.

Since the Copenhagen municipality started a progressive improvement of the water, it began to be clean. They began by investing heavily in expanding their wastewater treatment plants.

They removed nutrient salts, minimized the discharge of heavy metals, and modernized the city’s sewer system.

Six countries also came together to activate the Rhine Action Programme (RAP) dedicated to restoring the river and its creatures, especially salmons.

The Copenhagen municipality built rainwater and sewage reservoirs and reservoir conduits, which can store wastewater when there is an overflow until there is space again in the sewage system.

9. Umngot river – India

Umngot is also known as the River Dawki. The river flows through the valleys between the Khasi and Jaintia Hills.

The Torne River flows through northern Sweden and Finland. Half of the river forms the border of these two countries and is also proclaimed as the largest river in Norrbotten.

Due to little human occupancy, it was practically in its original state and had exceptionally clear waters. Kurravaara was the closest human village to Torne River, approximately 7 miles (12 kilometers) from the northeast of Kiruna.

Its fame has spread, and now it has become the focus of tourists who throng to it to capture it in photographs and for a boat ride. 

The river remains so clean due to the absence of human-settlement-based waste or mineral-mining affluents flowing into it via any of its tributaries.

By the time they join the river, its course is through the steep uninhabitable landscape, and the three villages, far from its banks, have ensured that the river remains clean.

The locals have also protested hard against the proposed hydroelectric project on the river.

10. Onyx River – Antarctica

source: Twitter

The tenth river in my list of the cleanest rivers in the world is the Onyx River. The Onyx River is birthed and sustained by glacier melt.

The Onyx River, Antarctica would be one of the cleanest rivers in the world first because it is fed by a glacier melt. Also, it has no human living along it to produce constant contamination.

There are no construction disturbances or industrial disturbances. In summary, it has very minimal interaction with humans.

An exclusive feature of this clean river is that it is dependable.


It is important to note that even the cleanest rivers in the world can still face environmental challenges, such as climate change, pollution, and human impact.

Regular monitoring and protection efforts are necessary to maintain the health and cleanliness of any river. The most polluted rivers in the world.

Which river is called the cleanest river in the world?

River Thames


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