This Panorama programme was really good to spread word to a wider audience, but, sadly, it wasn’t news to those of us working in rivers. Official statistics verify that recorded serious pollution events from the water industry have not decreased in at least the last decade.
WTT’s Conservation Officers offer a unique, national perspective on England’s rivers, spending as they do around 1000 professional days by and in the water: they widely see evidence of pollution of rivers, whether from sewage, agriculture or other industry. When we see issues, we report them to the regulatory agencies, we record them in advisory visit reports; in normal years, we offer an expert view directly to the Secretary of State and we join with other NGOs to inform policy makers. We encourage members to engage with their MPs to gain political support. It is a source of frustration to us and to anyone who cares about rivers that the EA, NRW, Ofwat and, by extension, Water Companies, are not directed by our politicians to treat water quality as a priority with the necessary investment in infrastructure and funds for enforcement of regulations.
Good river condition is a function of decent water quality, quantity and habitat. We make no pretence that our kind of habitat-focused work will solve the ills of a river running with pollution or too little water. But our kind of work is a great way to get local people practically involved in their river and get them started on a journey that in time sees them tackling those three vital components of a good river.