Rivers are a vital habitat for wildlife, bring nature into our towns and cities, and provide communities with recreational spaces. But only 16 per cent of our waterways are in good condition.
Our ageing Victorian sewerage infrastructure, unsustainable farming practices incentivised by the old EU subsidy schemes, and industrial pollution are to blame for the mess.
This Conservative government is doing more than any predecessor to tackle the problem; reinvesting fines from illegally polluting water firms into river restoration, mobilising £56 billion of water company investment to tackle storm overflows, and paying farmers to switch to sustainable practices.
But there's far more we can do. One simple step ministers can take to accelerate efforts to clean up our waterways is to set a target for designating bathing water sites along England's rivers.
Only two stretches of rivers in England have a bathing water status.
This status means that the Environment Agency consistently monitors the site's water quality, letting people know if it is safe for them to swim and enabling communities to hold polluters to account.
On the coast, where hundreds of sites have been designated, they have a proven record of cleaning up our seas. In the early 1990s, only 28 per cent met the highest water quality standards at the time. But today, almost 93 per cent meet today's more rigorous "good" or "excellent" standard.
The special status has helped improve water quality at Croyde beach in my constituency from good to excellent for the first time.
Along with 40 MPs and peers in the Conservative Environment Network, I am calling on ministers to set a target to designate at least two sites in each English water company region every five years.
It will take us a step closer to clean local rivers, which swimmers, anglers and others can enjoy.
First published by the Daily Express. Selaine Saxby MP (North Devon) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.