Government’s response to the Environmental Audit Committee special report on ‘Water Quality in Rivers’ lacks teeth

HM Government has today given its response to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee (EAC) report, published in January and based on its investigation into ‘Water quality in rivers’.

Links to both documents and an introduction to the work of the EAC are provided under the heading ‘Further Reading’, below.


The first summary paragraph of the EAC ‘Fourth Report on Water Quality in Rivers’, published on 13th January 2022, set a clear tone for the content of the report:

Getting a complete overview of the health of our rivers and the pollution affecting them is hampered by outdated, underfunded and inadequate monitoring regimes. It is clear, however, that rivers in England are in a mess. A ‘chemical cocktail’ of sewage, agricultural waste, and plastic is polluting the waters of many of the country’s rivers. Water companies appear to be dumping untreated or partially treated sewage in rivers on a regular basis, often breaching the terms of permits that on paper only allow them to do this in exceptional circumstances. Farm slurry and fertiliser runoff is choking rivers with damaging algal blooms. Single use plastic sanitary products—often coated with chemicals that can harm aquatic life—are clogging up drains and sewage works and creating ‘wet wipe reefs’ in rivers. Revolting ‘fatbergs’ as big as blue whales are being removed from sewers, costing companies and their customers in the region of £100 million a year. Not a single river in England has received a clean bill of health for chemical contamination. Disturbing evidence suggests they are becoming breeding grounds for antimicrobial resistance.

The Solent Protection Society took part in the public consultation as part of the EAC investigation, given our belief that the harbours and estuaries of the Solent form integral parts of the river systems that that feed them. The impact of pollution from agricultural run-off, wastewater sewage discharges and plastics that enter the rivers upstream is equally felt in the harbours and estuaries and compounded by sewage and plastics from further combined sewer overflows which discharge directly into them from the wastewater treatment plants operating near their shores.

Following a review of today’s government response to the EAC report, the Solent Protection Society has issued a Press Release summarising its response under the heading:

Government response to Environmental Audit Committee ‘Water quality in rivers’ report lacks teeth and the necessary urgency

To read or download the SPS press release, please take this link or select the image below:

Further Reading

  1. The EAC report – Fourth Report on Water Quality in Rivers can be found by taking this link.
  2. For the Government’s response, published on 16th May 2022, take this link
  3. For an overview of the Environmental Audit Committee’s investigation into water quality in rivers, please take this link or click the image below: