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.