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An Open Letter

We are calling on government to reject plans to amend legislation that requires 75% of English rivers to have 'good' status by 2027.

Thérèse Coffey
The Rt Hon Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
House of Commons

06 December 2022

Dear Secretary of State,

Planet Patrol is calling on the UK Government to reaffirm its commitments to the Water Framework Directive legislation that requires 75% of England’s rivers to achieve ‘good’ status by 2027. 

Water quality is in crisis in the UK. Our freshwater environments are being destroyed by an avalanche of pollutants and we are urgently warning the Government to take transformative action to reverse the destruction before it is too late. 

Not a single river in the UK is currently in an overall state of ‘good’ chemical health and only 16% achieve good ecological health – a figure that has remained unchanged since 2016. This stagnation is simply unacceptable and the consequences will be devastating.

Planet Patrol, an environmental non-profit, is gathering citizen science data to provide the empirical evidence required to help fill the information gap – left by a 74% cut in government funding for water quality monitoring over the last 10 years. 

Today, we launch our What Lies Beneath Report 2022one of the largest national people-powered studies of its kind monitoring six different pollutants- nitrates, nitrites, phosphates, total coliform, pH, metals – across 48 sites in England and Scotland. We have started to uncover a stark reality: the widespread, poor condition of our freshwater environments. 

98% of sites failed to meet acceptable criteria for at least one of the five pollutants monitored, while over half, 52%, of sites failed on three or more parameters

I am sending you a copy of the What Lies Beneath report, which also highlights: 

  • Nearly half, 46%, of sites showed unacceptable levels of nitrates
  • 69% of sites failed to meet acceptable concentration of phosphate 
  • Over 90% of sites test positive for total coliform bacteria 
  • Over a quarter, 26%, of sites fell below the recommended PH range for rivers, indicating they were acidic.

We understand that the lack of progress means the government is unlikely to meet the legal threshold of 75% of rivers achieving good status by 2027 under the Water Framework Directive. We are gravely concerned that this target is one of 570 laws listed for removal or amendment by December 2023 under the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill and the evidence we have gathered clearly indicates that this is an issue that needs both urgent attention and action. 

We believe that any decision to weaken this target will have a devastating impact on water quality in the UK. This target is both a major driver of public and private investment into cleaning up our waterways and a vital tool to hold industries with permits to pollute – which include much more than just water companies – to account over water pollution. 

We strongly urge you to reject any plans to weaken the legal threshold of 75% of rivers achieving good status by 2027 under the Water Framework Directive. 

Yours sincerely,

Lizzie Carr

Lizzie Carr MBE, founder of Planet Patrol

Stop government from weakening targets that protect our rivers

By signing this petition, you are demanding that the UK government reject any amendment to current legislation requiring 75% of English rivers to achieve ‘good’ status by 2027.

People-powered action can make a big difference, thank you for your support. 

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