At last, the media is noticing that the horrific amount of sewage in our rivers is being neither measured nor regulated. The environment secretary, Therese Coffey, is reportedly refusing to back tougher penalties on our 22 water companies. Meanwhile, pay packages for water industry bosses soared by 20% on average last year, despite the companies overseeing hundreds of thousands of sewage spills.
Coffey is also delaying or even failing to set targets for water quality and habitat protections in England.
Surely this is one of the most important issues we have? It is unbelievable that the water companies have largely stopped using sensors to check sewage flow levels. Even when sensors are present, they are often neither working nor checked.
According to the Environmental Agency, only 14% of England’s rivers can be classified as having a ‘good’ ecological status. Without action, that figure will drop to just 6% by 2027. Sewage from household toilets is discharged via the same pipes as rainwater – straight back into the rivers. The health risks are frightening: gastroenteritis, hepatitis, asthma, Weil’s disease plus infections of the eyes, skin or brain.
The 13 years of this Conservative government since 2010 have been, quite frankly, terrifying. We are now faced by the third prime minister who doesn’t care about citizens. It’s hard to conceive that Sunak understands what life is like for most of the population. Bottled water is fine if you’re a billionaire, but it’s too expensive for many.
A manifesto for our rivers
The i, along with the New Scientist, has set up a campaign – Save Our Rivers – to stop water companies and ministers destroying our waters.
The campaign has three aims:
- to reveal what is happening in our rivers and why
- to explain the horror of pollution and its effects on people and nature
- to push for change in policy
It’s a robust, cross-party plan – a manifesto for our rivers.
The need is urgent. Please support this campaign.