The campaigning organisation, River Action, has written to the new UK Prime Minister and Environment Secretary to congratulate them on their appointments and to urge them to take action to address the state of UK’s rivers.

Last week we reported on the Environment Minister’s first day in office and his demand for water company chief executives to submit plans to make “significant improvements” to reduce sewage discharged into waterways within two weeks.

In their letter, River Action have set out the key drivers of the river crisis as they see it and the steps the new Government needs to take to address pollution. Below is an extract from the letter.

River Action’s stated key drivers of the river crisis:

  • The discharge of untreated sewage into rivers – data shows that raw sewage was discharged into English rivers 375,000 times in 2021 across a total of 3.1 million hours.
  • Agricultural pollution – responsible for 40% of damage to our waterways.

Some of the steps from River Action for the Government to follow in order to address river pollution:

  • Setting a clear overall national target under the Environment Act for restoring our rivers to health.
  • Substantially strengthening proposed targets under the Environment Act for the reduction of agricultural pollution in our rivers.
  • Using agricultural support payments to support farmers who do the right thing for our rivers and wildlife.
  • Maintaining and strengthening the legal protections given to our rivers including nutrient neutrality requirements and habitats regulations.
  • Giving regulators the powers and duties to protect our rivers – and the capacity and resources to do so.

Regarding his message to the water companies, the Minister, Ranil Jayawardena, said that the current approach is “not good enough”. Water companies have been given two week deadline to show how they will stop sewage being pumped into rivers and beaches.

Mr Jayawardena said “The volume of sewage spewed out by water companies is completely unacceptable, and the public have rightly shown their outrage. Yesterday, in my first day in office, I told water chief executives that it is not good enough, and I have instructed them to write to me formally by 21 September with a plan for how they will make significant improvements.” The statement in Parliament can be found in Hansard here.

The full letter from River Action can be read here.










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