Water Companies are killing our rivers

The Environment Agency has today (14th July) published its annual assessment of water company performance, Water and sewerage companies in England: environmental performance report 2021.  It makes for shocking reading.

In the words of Emma Howard Boyd, the outgoing chair of the Environment Agency;

“In 2021, the environmental performance of England’s 9 water and sewerage companies was the worst we have seen for years. Measured against our four-star rating, most of them went the wrong way: down. Four companies (Anglian, Thames, Wessex, Yorkshire Water) were rated only 2 stars, which means they require significant improvement. Two (Southern and South West Water) fell to 1 star, the bottom of our star ratings, meaning their performance was terrible across the board.

“The sector’s performance on pollution was shocking, much worse than previous years. Serious pollution incidents increased to 62, the highest total since 2013. There were 8 of the most serious (category 1) incidents, compared with 3 in 2020 and most companies, 7 of the 9, were responsible for an increase in serious incidents compared to 2020.”

Grim reading, indeed.  But not a surprise.  Those of us who are passionate about our rivers and the fish that live in them have seen this deterioration happening before our eyes, at the end of our rods.  And while we welcome further action to clamp down on water companies, while we support the call from Emma Howard Boyd for CEOs of water companies to be held criminally liable, even to get jail time for the damage and destruction they are responsible for.  And while we want to see an end to excessive profits and big fat bonuses for company execs.  We cannot and will not accept it is only water companies who are in the dock.  Both the Environment Agency and Defra also stand accused of allowing our rivers to die.

In response to today’s report, Defra tweeted:

Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns, responded,

“Defra have consistently failed to take action.  The targets they are proposing to make legally binding on water quality do not go far enough.  Their proposals to reduce discharges from storm overflows are weak.  Only 14% of our water bodies meet good ecological status and none meet good chemical status.  This is not action.  What we have from both Defra and the EA is inaction.

“They have consistently allowed water companies to get away with it.  Introducing self-monitoring and self-reporting by water companies has been a disaster. In effect it meant both the government and the EA stepped away from their responsibility to protect our rivers.  They are complicit in this mess.

“Improvement must come and come quickly.  With a new chair of the Environment Agency taking up their post, with a new Prime Minister coming into office, we now need leadership from our regulators and politician.  This is a crisis.  We will no longer accept excuses.”

Our Anglers Against Pollution campaign will continue to hold water companies, the EA, and Defra to account.  Join the Angling Trust & Fish Legal to support our work.

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