Warning: River Pollution Targets Lack Ambition

Posted: Friday 18th December 2009

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), the trade association linking over 300 firms in environmental technology and services, has launched a parliamentary campaign for river water quality targets to be made more ambitious.

The campaign, involving letters to key Ministers and MPs and an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons (EDM 136), calls on the Government to urge the Environment Agency to improve their targets for river cleanliness.

At present, only 21% of rivers in England and 33% in Wales are of Good Ecological Status according to stipulations set out in the European Union’s Water Framework Directive (WFD). The Environment Agency’s aim is to increase this proportion to just 26% and 35% by 2015, yet they publicly cite their intention to achieve a ‘Good’ status of 48% and 53% respectively. These figures relate only to the biological health of rivers.

River water quality testing standards feature in the Government’s Draft River Basin Management Plans, which are due to be published on December 22nd. Defra’s own research has shown that implementing the new measures properly could bring economic benefits of £3.6 billion. The campaign therefore comes at a crucial time to underline the plans’ lack of ambition.

Commenting on the targets, Adrian Wilkes, Chief Executive of the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), said:

“Water is moving up the political agenda – and rightly so. Climate change will mean drier summers. Water resources are declining in many areas.

“Yet sadly the Environment Agency is planning to move too slowly on the critical issue of river water cleanliness. Their level of ambition is disappointingly low. There is a lack of leadership here from the Government, which ought to be urgently pressing the Agency to beef up its plans. The Environment Agency’s targets need to be part of an integrated package for giving the vulnerable future of water supply the attention it deserves. “

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