Water pollution: How clean are the UK's rivers and lakes?

From the BBC. Full story https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-59898988

England’s rivers are contaminated by a “chemical cocktail” of sewage, agriculture and road pollution, according to a report from MPs.

This follows repeated breaches of environmental regulations by water companies and farms.

The Environmental Audit Committee wants to see tougher monitoring and enforcement. 

Why do we need to protect our water?

High quality water is key both to our survival and that of the environment.

Each person in the UK uses around 140 litres of water a day for washing, drinking and cooking.

The water we use in our homes is pre-treated to ensure its safety, but increased pollution means more intensive treatment is required, which raises household bills.

Higher levels of contamination also threaten open water sources crucial for the survival of wildlife, the natural environment and the food system. 

According to the Wildlife Trusts, rising pollution levels place 10% of freshwater and wetland species at risk of extinction. In Wales and England, 38% of fish health checks are failed due to disease caused by pollution. 

These species are vital to:

Access to clean water sources can also provide an opportunity for outdoor exercise.

Where does the pollution come from?

The main reasons for poor water quality are:

But Professor Steve Ormerod, ecologist at Cardiff University, also warns of other threats: 

“We need to understand the risks which come with emerging pollutants – pharmaceuticals, microplastics. We don’t know, at this stage how big a problem they’re going to be in the future.”

Previous campaigns on acid rain and sewage have been successful in improving water quality, but improvements have stalled since 2016.

“The fact remains that many water companies, farmers and others are still not doing enough to protect [our waters],” the Environment Agency told the BBC.

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