Water: Standards

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 11th November 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps (1) they, and (2) the Environment Agency, are taking to ensure that surface water bodies in England meet a ‘good’ standard under the Water Framework Directive.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The Environment Agency (EA) and Defra work together closely on addressing the pressures that prevent water bodies in England from meeting 'good' status.

Through regulation, enforcement, financial incentives and educational schemes, we are improving poor farming practices which lead to water pollution. We are also working with water companies to tackle head-on, sewage discharge from storm overflows. A new Taskforce has been set up between Defra, the EA, Ofwat and water companies which will meet regularly and set out clear proposals to reduce the frequency and volumes of sewage discharges.

In 2019 the EA issued, monitored and enforced 4,263 water quality permits, protecting water quality. In the last five years the EA has undertaken 44 prosecutions against water companies, securing fines of £34 million. Since 2008 the EA made changes to over 300 abstraction licences that have returned 47 billion litres of water a year to the environment, improving river levels and flows.

Water improvement is also supported by significant funding from water companies, required in their statutory duties. In the current Price Review period (2020-25) they have committed £4.6 billion towards environmental improvements.

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