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Recommendations announced that will improve UK's water future

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Graham Mann
I have been in the Water & Waste Water industry for 30 years and formed a Water Consultancy business called H2o Building Services both myself and my team have built a wealth of knowledge and expertise Saving companies money on their Water bi
  • Recommendations announced that will improve UK's water future

Over the last few years, more and more people have become aware there is a global water crisis, and the UK needs to do more to protect its water health for future generations.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 1.1 billion people around the world do not have access to water. Even more frighteningly, 2.7 billion struggle to find water for at least one month a year.

It is not just a problem for developing countries though, and an increasing number of Brits are worried about the quality of water in the UK, as a result of pollutants and water waste due to poor water leak repairs.

Brits worried about water quality

A recent poll from the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) revealed 81 per cent of people are worried about the UK’s nature.

It also found that 65 per cent believe the next government should investigate and possibly reform water regulations in the UK. An additional 11 per cent think this should be a priority for the new government after the next general election.

These concerns are justified given that a House of Commons Committee report revealed that all rivers in England had chemical contamination. It also stated that only 14 per cent met ‘good’ ecological status.

This is despite the Water Framework Directive legal requirement for all rivers to reach ‘good’ status by 2027. Currently, it is not on track to meet this, and the water quality of English rivers remains the worst in Europe.

As CIWEM director of policy Alastair Chisholm and project lead for A Fresh Water Future said: “The public get it. They understand how important water is. In their homes, in their local environments. But they see pollution all around them and big corporates and government saying one thing and then acting like water is an afterthought.”

What are the sources of pollution?

The main reason for the low quality of river water is agricultural pollution. This impacts 40 per cent of waterways, as chemicals used in agriculture in rural areas run off into the rivers.

This is followed by sewage and wastewater, which affects more than a third (36 per cent) of rivers, including both public pollution and commercial rubbish.

Urban diffuse pollution, which is the run-off from towns, cities and transport, impacts 18 per cent of English rivers.

Water experts dissatisfied over regulations

At the same time as the public having grievances about how poorly pollution is monitored and managed in the UK, water experts are also dissatisfied over water companies’ operations and actions.

According to CIWEM’s report, only six per cent wanted the current ownership, corporate governance and regulation systems to continue.

While they want great changes when it comes to agricultural and urban pollution issues, as well as drought problems, and water company management, there is no obvious alternative solution.

They simply argue that these challenges, which will result in a further decline in water health, will continue to worsen over the years.

A Fresh Water Future’s Recommendations

To resolve the grievances of both the public and water experts, A Fresh Water Future has made ten recommendations based on the thousands of views they have garnered.

Before these can be implemented, however, it states an independent review of water policy and regulation needs to be conducted as soon as the next government is in power.

This report needs to be published within its first year of term, so the recommendations can be carried out before the following election.

These suggestions include:

  • Water assurance taskforce

A Fresh Water Project believes a ‘water assurance task force’ needs to be established.

This ensures there will be more transparency when it comes to reporting, legal compliance from water companies, and governance.

Regulators will be given more power to do more monitoring and subsequent enforcement, putting an end to self-monitoring of wastewater and sewerage operations.

  • Environmentally-friendly support for farming

As agricultural waste causes so much pollution in waterways across the UK, it is important that something is done to encourage more environmentally-friendly farming.

The report found that many people would pay more for produce if this meant an improvement of farm regulations, and a subsequent reduction of pollution.

These would include better soil management and more strategic planning, both of which will help rural Britain cope with floods and droughts, which cause debris to run into rivers.

As the National Geographic explains, floodwater easily becomes contaminated with pollutants, washing pesticides, chemicals and sewage into waterways. This can affect their water quality.

  • National nutrient management programme

The group wants to establish a national programme that monitors and manages nutrients, as this would enable a targeted approach on certain areas that are prone to pollution and help to tackle those activities that are causing the most damage to the water quality.

There will also be an improvement of planning policies and environmental permitting for livestock production. This will help to prevent more ecological disasters, particularly as these policies will be enforceable.

It also wants to create a circular economy when it comes to managing manures from intensive units.

Although these suggestions will make a difference, they have all been made before, with Mr Chisholm stating: “The sad irony in this work is, there’s nothing fresh here.”

He added: “All of it has been said many times before by water managers and campaigners. But most of it has been paid lip service, ignored or delayed, perceived and presented as a cost-burden to growth not a fundamental underpinning of it.”

Over this time, there have been growing pressures on water as the population has increased, while climate change has meant droughts and floods are more likely. Therefore, the need for change is greater than it has ever been.

Despite this, Mr Chisholm is positive for the future, stating: “What’s changed is how clear the consensus is, from a big and diverse sample, that this neglect can’t go on.”

These changes could be transformational to the UK, improving the quality and availability of freshwater all over the country, as opposed to continuing to watch them decline.

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