English Rivers Fail Pollution Tests

Sept. 17, 2020

The Environment Agency shows that all English rivers have failed to meet quality tests for pollution.


Data released by the Environment Agency show that for the first time all English rivers have failed to meet quality tests for pollution.

The data reveals just 14% of English rivers meet ecological standards. This information comes as the concern grows over the scale of sewage discharges and agricultural and industrial chemicals entering the water system.

In 2016, 97% of rivers had good chemical status. According to the Environment Agency, the standard of tests used during that time was tougher.

The Environment Agency assessed 4,600 rivers, lakes and other waterways and none was rated as good on both standards. The highest rating of both standards was moderate, which related to 3,740 waterways, with 793 judged poor and 137 rated bad. According to the Environment Agency, sewage wastewater discharges by water companies into rivers account for damage to 36% of waterways and run-off from agricultural industries is responsible for 40% of damage to waterways.

Previously, the Environment Agency pledged to make sure 75% of England’s rivers were considered good by 2027, but has since revealed it is unlikely to meet this goal.

Pollution from raw sewage discharges by water companies is entering rivers and chemical discharges from industry and agricultural run-off are key sources of pollution, according to the data.

“Healthy waters are essential for people and nature to survive, and for businesses to thrive, yet none of our rivers are now classed as being in good health,” said Ali Morse, chair of Blueprint for Water. “This affects our crops, our wildlife, the nature sites we love to visit, our water bills and so much more. We need the government to ensure we have the legal commitments, high standards, pollution prevention and funding to turn the tide for our rivers.”

“Water quality has plateaued since 2016, which isn’t good enough. Today just 14% of our rivers are [rated good],” said Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd. “To get where we want to be everyone needs to improve how they use water now and that means water companies, farmers and the public.”

The agency suggested the failure for any river to reach good chemical standards reflected improvements to its monitoring, which include searching for the presence of substances in fish and shellfish as well as in water.

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Cristina Tuser

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