New figures from the Environment Agency have been released today revealing that 0% of river, lakes and streams are classed as in good health in England, despite a target for all waters to be in good health by 2027. When figures were last published in 2016, 16% of waters were classed as good.

The change represents more accurate measurements, that reveal the true poor state of our waters, rather than a change in underlying condition, where there has been no progress. Environment experts say the figures demonstrate that the Government needs to urgently invest in turning our failing rivers into thriving blue corridors.

The new Environment Agency figures show that every single surfacewater body monitored by the Environment Agency in England has failed stricter new chemical standards, meaning that none have a clean bill of health overall

The failure rate on many other measures of good water health has shown little or no improvement, the most important being assessments of Ecological Status. Only 16% of English waters were classed in good ecological health for in 2016, with the figure remaining 16% in 2019.

The figures released today show that the proportion of English waters in good health is one of the worst in Europe, with a European average of 40% of surface water bodies in good health

•MOur rivers and lakes are also the least healthy in the UK, with waterbodies in Scotland at 65.7%, rivers in Wales at 46% and 31.3% of rivers in Northern Ireland classed in good health

The Governments’ target in its 25 Year Environment Plan for 75% of waterbodies in England to be in good condition ‘as soon as possible’ (ahead of the 2027 target for all waters) is now all but unachievable

Current monitoring overlooks many of the highest quality waters – headwater streams, ponds and small lakes – so we have little idea how these are faring

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘Chemicals, sewage, manure, and plastic are polluting our rivers, invasive weeds are choking them, and climate change and over-use are drying them out. Urgent investment is needed now to turn our suffering waters into thriving blue corridors for wildlife. It means investment, industry change, and improved standards are essential, with the legal underpinning in the Environment Bill to make our waters well again.’

Ali Morse of the Wildlife Trusts and Chair of Blueprint for Water, said: ‘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. 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.’


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