Spring Conference 2023

Motion #03

Declining Quality of Rivers and Coastal Waters

Motion passed



To view the background paper for this motion, click here.


This statement is a response from the Wildlife & Habitats pwg to the declining quality of rivers notably in England due to the failure of the private water companies to properly monitor pollution levels and build the infrastructure needed to protect water quality. All policies are drawn from the PfSS

1 This Conference deplores the declining quality of rivers, estuaries and inshore waters of England and holds this Government’s ideologically driven policy of privatisations and ‘small state’ to be responsible.

2 We recall that the privatisation of water was sold to the British Public as the most efficient means of attracting the needed investment to clean up our rivers and replace our antiquated sewerage system. It is apparent to us that this promise has been broken.

3 We question the Government’s claim that water quality is ‘better now than at any time since the Industrial Revolution,’ and support the scientific view that the state of our rivers is ‘unacceptably poor’. We also take note of the Environment Agency’s findings in 2020 that ‘0% of rivers, lakes and streams are classed as in good health in England.’

4 We note with great concern that the ownership of the water companies has now largely passed to private equity companies whose interest is in maximising profit for dividend and bonus payments and not environmental protection.

5 We also note that the Government has cut the Environment Agency budget by nearly two thirds since 2010 leading to the loss of over 1700 members of staff, severely limiting the Agency’s ability to monitor and hold the Water Companies to account.

6 We therefore demand that:

the private water companies are taken back into public ownership [NR413]

the Government develops and implements a comprehensive national conservation and regeneration strategy for nature to include all bodies of freshwater, estuaries and inshore coastal waters to reverse the loss of biodiversity. [WH200]

the Polluter pays principle shall apply to all discharges of effluent water and runoff and any subsequent damage caused. [PL431]

waste disposal using ‘dilute and disperse’ will no longer be generally acceptable. [PL428]

all sewage is fully treated to realise its potential for biogas generation or as fertiliser so that waste water can be safely returned to rivers. [NR413]

the use of inorganic fertilisers and pesticides on farms is reduced through regulation and through a progressive switch to eco-agricultural practices to safeguard long term water and food resources. [FA206]

polluted runoff from urban areas and roads is treated before discharge to rivers or coastal waters.

the discharge of stormwater to rivers and coastal waters is only allowed in extreme circumstances to protect lives and property. All such discharges must be reported to the Environment Agency together with a statement on how such overflows can be prevented in the future. Any other storm discharge will carry an automatic fine to the discharging body in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle. [PL431]

Planning Authorities and the relevant government departments are required to assess all development proposals for their impact on the sewage and drainage systems. Where proposals risk overloading the system the developer will be required to show how they will increase capacity for safe discharge of waste and drainage water, otherwise the proposal will be refused. [LP 203, 306, 406]

the Government restores the grant to the Environment Agency to at least its value in 2010 to enable the Agency to carry out its monitoring and enforcement responsibilities.

Last updated on 2023-03-11 at 12:23