There has been widespread coverage in The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Mirror, The Express, The Financial Times and BBC Online on the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on water quality in England’s rivers.
The report calls for action from everyone - the Government, regulators, water companies and farmers - to come together to deliver real change to improve the state of our rivers.
The government welcomes this report and will be reviewing its recommendations carefully before responding later this year.
Our Environment Act has already put in place more protections against water pollution than ever before and we are the first government to instruct water companies to take steps to significantly reduce storm overflows, which we have also put into law.
Increased monitoring and transparency is key. More than 12,000 of England’s 15,000 storm overflows now have Event Duration Monitors to capture the frequency and duration of discharges, and the remaining 3,000 will have them by end of next year. All the data is published online so everyone can see what is happening.
We are also doing much more to reduce pollution from agriculture, doubling the budget for our programme which provides practical support and advice for farmers and rolling it out across the whole of England.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
We are going further and faster than any other government to protect and enhance the health of our rivers and seas. We welcome the EAC’s report which highlights many areas that this government is now tackling.
Our Environment Act puts in place more protections against water pollution than ever before and we are the first government to instruct water companies to take steps to significantly reduce storm overflows, which we have also put into law. We won’t hesitate to take enforcement action against water companies failing to reduce pollution and last year Southern Water were fined a record £90 million for their appalling sewage discharges.
We are delivering targeted action and practical support to farmers to reduce pollution from agriculture, doubling the budget for this approach and rolling it out across the whole of England. And we are leading the way in tackling plastic pollution by clamping down on single use plastics and our carrier bag charge, as well as the new plastic packaging tax coming in this year.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said:
In many respects our rivers are in a better state than they were twenty years ago, but water quality in rivers is not good enough and improvements have flatlined over the last 10 years. Water companies, regulators, farmers and others must do more to protect it. We welcome the EAC’s report in highlighting this important issue and the actions needed to improve things.
The EA has launched a major investigation into possible unauthorised spills at thousands of sewage treatment works, secured fines of over £137 million since 2015 for pollution incidents and placed new requirements on water companies to significantly increase their monitoring and reporting so that everyone can see what is happening. We are also working with farmers to support environmentally friendly farming that doesn’t damage water quality.
Everyone should understand the scale of the challenges and the investment needed to put things right. We welcome the EAC’s recommendations and will respond in due course while continuing to work with industry, government and the wider public to protect our rivers, making the best use of the resources we have.
Comment by John Burt posted on
“ In many respects our rivers are in a better state than they were twenty years ago,”
I what respects, pray tell? Until you provide a list, your statement will be treated as the absolute twaddle it undoubtedly is.
Comment by alan wightman posted on
No government has done LESS since David Cameron in 2010 and that includes not only protecting our rivers but also our coastal waters.
'No fewer than NINE SUPER-TRAWLERS have been granted licences to operate now in UK waters.
Comment by Nick Greenhough posted on
Everyone can see what is happening.
But you are the overseers of this environmental apocalypse and do nothing. Absolutely nothing. If it is eventually decided to kneecap you - what good would that be? You have allowed the destruction and yet still claim that you are the protectors?
Comment by Ray Walton posted on
DEFRA Response -
An Environment Agency spokesperson said:
“IN MANY RESPECTS OUR RIVERS ARE IN A BETTER STATE THAN THEY WERE TWENTY YEARS AGO”….
Question: So how much in £££Millions or more have the Environment Agency and NRW been paid in profit dividends, being the pollution regulators authorising and permitting Untreated Raw Sewage and Chemical discharge pollution, but also underhand shareholders and investors in all the same 10 ‘convicted criminal’ Water & Sewage companies in England and Wales, over the past 25 years...including Southern Water?
'Water companies have cut investment by up to 30% while paying out £72 billion in dividends to shareholders'.
'Its investments could open it up to legal challenges if they were to grant permits to companies in which its pension pot has a financial interest'. Which it Does. Why is that not being challenged and investigated?
Read more -click on the photo link.
Comment by John W. Baxter posted on
The monitoring of storm overflows is fine, but monitoring is not what is needed as much as action to prevent these pump wells overflowing to storm overflows, by installing bigger pump capacity and treatment capacity instead of using water courses as excess flow dumps of low cost.
Water companies have been paid to treat waste water to acceptable standards, it is time the water companies and eg their Canadian teacher pension fund investors accepted that neither Canadian nor British members of the public find this current performance acceptable.
Much has been invested in waste water treatment incentivised by ROC payments from governments, not to treat and screen more waste capacity, but to extract more biogas from the sludges collected for energy production using chp units.
Comment by Tim Barter posted on
With respect, it sounds like your are saying that the rivers are OK, it's the water that's not? We don't want you to secure £137m in fines because sewage spills have been prosecuted: we want to know that the water companies aren't effectively told that spills are cheaper than making improvements to their infrastructure. Taking money out of the system only works if someone then pays it back to make those improvements. How does that work? Water companies, like every other type of business serve the needs of their shareholders. Their customers do not complain unless the product they buy isn't up to scratch. Sewage in the River isn't their problem so they don't notice the impacts. The industry requires fundamentally restructuring to make companies responsible for delivering an improved environment as well as supplying clean water and sustainably disposing of sewage.