Parliamentary report calls for better protection of rivers

A look into the health of English rivers and efforts in monitoring pollution.

Meteor Communications has welcomed a report on river water quality, published by the UK Environmental Audit Committee (EAC). Following consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders, the report revealed evidence of river pollution in England.

However, Andrew Scott, technical director of Meteor Communications, who provided evidence to the committee, said: “Of course, it is good that this vitally important issue is being highlighted, and we are pleased to note that the report specifies a wide range of measures that should be undertaken to improve water quality; all of which should be underpinned by effective monitoring.

“The report also highlights the need for greater investment in infrastructure, which will be vital in the pursuit of the report’s goals.”

The data published by the Environment Agency, under obligations originally established by the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive, showed that only 14% of English rivers met good ecological status and no river met good chemical status. The Environment Act 2021 empowers Ministers to set long-term statutory targets for the improvement of the natural environment and requires a long-term target for the improvement of water to be set not later than 31 Oct 2022.

Several witnesses criticised the use of ‘spot sampling’ suggesting that this method “dramatically reduces the likelihood of detecting pollution incidents”. Witnesses also urged the introduction of continuous real-time monitoring of water quality. For example, Salmon and Trout Conservation observed that technological developments in monitoring meant that “continuous monitoring should now be both practical and affordable for the Environment Agency to use widely, especially at potentially high-risk locations such as sewage treatment works”.

The Centre of Hydrology and Ecology concurred: “The use of multi-probe sondes with telemetry to detect ammonium, turbidity and dissolved oxygen concentrations in effluents at hourly frequencies, alongside flow gauging, could provide an accurate estimate of pollution loadings coming from sewage treatment works, an early warning system to detect sewage treatment works failures and provide the key data for researchers to evaluate the impact of combined sewer overflows on downstream river water quality and ecology.”

The full article is available on the latest edition of Water & Wastewater Asia Mar/Apr 2022 issue. To continue reading, click here.