Deeply concerning’ failures to properly implement regulations designed to protect rivers, lakes and coastal waters in England mean key targets for improvement will be missed, a report by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has found.

As part of its role to monitor how environmental laws are working in practice the OEP has carried out a review of the key legislation regarding water quality – the Water Framework Directive (WFD) Regulations for England – and how they are being implemented by Defra and the Environment Agency through River Basin Management Planning (RBMP).

This report assesses whether the Government’s plans to improve England’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters are likely to be effective enough to achieve the target to have 77% in Good Ecological Status or Potential by 2027 – the Environmental Objectives it has set in the regulations.  These legal targets also play a significant role in the Government achieving its wider environmental ambitions for nature and species recovery.

The report finds that Government and the Environment Agency (EA) are currently not on track to meet the Environmental Objectives. The OEP’s worst case assessment would see just 21% of surface waters in Good Ecological state by 2027, representing only a 5% improvement on the current situation.

Read more and download the OEP report and accompanying material here.

Government response to OEP report

Defra has responded to the OEP report and in particular certain claims made. The OEP’s press notice states that “most of our open water is likely to remain in a poor state in the years ahead”; Defra has responded by saying ‘This is factually incorrect and misleading. Only 17% of water bodies are in a poor state. 63% are in an average state (moderate) and 16% are in good state.

The wider European context is also relevant.  Due to the pressure on the water environment no EU country is on track to meet the Water Framework Directive targets. Comparable economies such as Germany is at 8% and the Netherlands is less than 1% Good Ecological Status.’

A Government spokesperson also said: “This government has done more than any other to protect and restore our rivers, lakes and coastal waters with record levels of investment, monitoring and enforcement. We welcome this report’s recommendations to go further and will consider them in detail.”

Covered in The Guardian

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