Members of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) today urged the government to set a target for designating more bathing water sites to monitor pollution in England’s rivers after water firms apologised for their poor quality. Only 14 per cent of England’s rivers are in good condition, and only four stretches of rivers are protected by bathing water status. Only bodies of water with this special designation are consistently monitored, keeping swimmers informed and giving communities data to hold polluters to account.
Following their apology, water firms have offered to help up to 100 communities secure the status, which is awarded by the government, as they seek to put things right.
Over 40 CEN MPs called for the government to set a target for inland bathing water sites in a recent manifesto to clean up England’s waterways. The special designation has been successful along England’s coast, where there are over 400 sites. In the early 1990s, only 28 per cent of coastal bathing waters met the highest standards at the time. But almost 93 per cent now meet today's more rigorous "good" or "excellent" standard, and 97 per cent meet the minimum requirement.
Philip Dunne MP commented: "Our rivers are in poor condition for nature and people, so water companies are right to apologise for their part in polluting our waterways.
"I am pleased they have committed to fund bids for bathing water status in up to 100 places, so pollution is monitored to ensure they are safe for people to enjoy. It will arm communities with data to hold polluters to account, keeping water firms honest and exposing other sources of pollution.
"To deliver these sites, ministers should set an ambitious target for designating this status to more places along our rivers with an improved monitoring system to relieve pressure on the Environment Agency."
Sally-Ann Hart MP commented: "Bathing water status is a valuable tool to improve rivers and beaches as it means water quality is consistently monitored to inform swimmers and expose pollution. It can equally restore the public’s faith in local rivers and beaches following water firms’ failures.
"But while over 400 sites have been designated along our coasts, few rivers benefit from the status. With water companies offering to support up to 100 places to achieve this status as part of their apology, the government needs an ambitious target to designate these sites."
Siobhan Ballie MP commented: "Water firms’ polluting practices have shaken people's confidence in the quality of our rivers, beaches and waterways, far too many of which are in poor condition. “Their offer to support up to 100 places to achieve bathing water status is a good step forward. When established, they will help enable more people to enjoy rivers recreationally again, knowing that they’re monitored and able to see how clean they are. But ministers need an ambitious target to deliver many more of these sites on rivers and lakes to ensure pollution is monitored."