Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 9th September 2021.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to help ensure that the Environment Agency has sufficient funding and resources to manage phosphate pollution in (a) Somerset and (b) England.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effect on the health of England's rivers of reductions in funding allocated to the Environment Agency since 2010.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential effect of funding reductions to the Environment Agency over the last 10 years on the level of phosphates in Somerset.
The water environment faces multiple pressures, including from population growth and climate change. Improving our water environment will be challenging and requires a combined effort of government, industry, businesses and civil society. The Government and its agencies, including the Environment Agency, are taking action. We are committed to our goal of delivering clean and plentiful water, as set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan.
Defra and its agencies received a £1 billion increase in overall funding at the 2020 spending review so we can do more to tackle climate change and protect our environment for future generations. Discussions are underway about the allocation of funding through the upcoming spending review to support delivery of the government's environmental priorities.
In addition, from 2020 to 2025 water companies are investing £7.1 billion to protect and improve the water environment. This includes £600 million of additional funding for the environment enabled through the Government and regulators' Green Recovery scheme.
The Government is aware of the impact of phosphate and other pollutants on the degradation of waterbodies in Somerset and nationally. We are working closely with Natural England and the Environment Agency (EA) to provide the tools to address this problem. I have also been working with MHCLG on the nutrient pollution taskforce, which meets every four to six weeks, to ensure action is coordinated and joined up.
Regulations, including the Farming Rules for Water, are in place to protect the water environment from diffuse agricultural pollution.
We have increased agricultural inspections in Somerset and other affected areas to address phosphate pollution at source by recently allocating the EA an additional £1.2 million to significantly increase the number of inspectors visiting farmers. We have also escalated our efforts to help farmers take voluntary action beyond regulatory requirements to reduce water pollution by expanding the Catchment Sensitive Farming programme - jointly run by Natural England, EA and Defra - to operate across the whole of England.
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