OEP report, May 2024: UK law ‘not delivering as intended’ for our rivers

The UK’s environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), has just issued a damning report on the government’s ongoing failure to protect our rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

As part of its remit to monitor how well environmental legislation is working in practice, the OEP has conducted a review of key legal provisions contained in the Water Framework Directive and their implementation by Defra and the EA.

The report concludes that the current target, requiring 77% of waters to reach good ecological status or potential by 2027, is likely to be missed by a wide margin. 

Dame Glenys Stacey, chair of the OEP, says:

We have found that, while the relevant law here is broadly sound, it is simply not being implemented effectively. This means it is not delivering as intended and, as a consequence, most of our open water is likely to remain in a poor state in the years ahead unless things change. This is deeply concerning.

While we know that there are dedicated and professional people working hard to improve the condition of our rivers, as in so many other aspects of the environment, government must now ensure substantial funding for a wider range of specific action, at pace and with ambition.’

But as this article in the Guardian points out:

The Environment Agency has calculated a cost of £51bn to clean up England’s waters, which would provide £64bn in monetisable benefits. However, confirmed funding of only £6.2bn is just 12% of that required.’

The UK government’s response to the OEP’s report must be laid before Parliament within three months, and the OEP will then decide what further steps may need to be taken.

You can read the OEP’s report and full comments HERE.

OEP May 2024