Environmental Audit Committee scrutinises Government’s water quality plan

23rd May 2024

Responding to the Government’s latest work on water quality, Environmental Audit Committee Chair Philip Dunne said:

“Yesterday the Environmental Audit Committee met water industry representatives and campaigners, with regulators and the Minister for Water, to discuss progress and what more needed to be done to improve water quality. The Committee met on the day news broke of a significant undetected sewage spillage at Lake Windermere, yet again igniting public awareness and alarm.

Earlier this week, the Government announced it would designate 27 new bathing water sites, following a Committee recommendation in 2022. This is a positive first step; from Devon to Cumbria, a few communities across the UK should be able to access their local waterways without risking illness. 12 of these sites are in rivers, 3 in Shropshire.

“Today the Government told us that it wants to see 77% of rivers reach ‘good’ ecological status by 2027. Yet the Rivers Trust told us that on latest available evidence, just 16% do. With only three years to go, it currently seems unlikely that this critical target will be reached.

“It is promising that 100% of storm overflows are now fitted with event duration monitors, devices which assess when and for how long storm discharges are operating. But we have also heard concerns about their reliability and efficacy of other testing measures being undertaken by the Environment Agency.

“We also heard that water companies are proposing to invest a huge £100 billion over the next five years, £10 billion of which to be spent in improving the water treatment network. Financing and delivering this investment on and under the ground is a significant challenge.

“Our Committee will follow up some of our concerns to ensure these commitments can be delivered with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he appears before us in June.”


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