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Part 5: Recommendations

A CITIZEN SCIENCE INVESTIGATION OF UK WATER QUALITY
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1) Close The Pipes

Throughout 2021, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and water companies have received a substantial quantity of bad press for allowing raw sewage to be dumped into the country’s waterways. Planet Patrol recommends that this forward momentum is harnessed for a nationwide campaign to Close The Pipes. Investment is needed to increase the capacity of our wastewater management infrastructure to reduce discharges of raw sewage and wastewater, and the volume of wastewater discharge, into our waterways. 

2) Integrate people powered data into formal water quality monitoring frameworks and regulation.

Citizen science is a viable and efficient way to  collect high quality and cost-effective data  at scale. Planet Patrol recommends that citizen science led organisations are consulted, and data included in formal water quality monitoring frameworks and regulation. By working collaboratively, more data can be considered in order to make informed decisions.

3) Implement measures to create better accountability.

Current fine levels for environmental breaches do not financially impact the water companies  to the extent that deters polluting. Planet Patrol recommends vastly increasing financial penalties for the pollution of waterways and implementing more stringent measures like  increased personal legal liability  for Chief Executives and senior board members at companies responsible for the most serious and deliberate environmental breaches.

4) Clearer legal evidence standards to enable  greater private prosecutions for water quality damages.

More citizen science projects should be funded as a mechanism for providing regulators with a credible evidence base for prosecution. Environmental regulators are chronically underfunded by the UK government, meaning they have limited  resources to prosecute offenders. Citizen science initiatives  hold significant potential to provide assistance in securing convictions by gathering evidence of pollution at scale. Planet Patrol recommends making legal evidence standards clearer and the pathway to prosecution  more accessible. 

5) Stronger guidelines and thresholds for what constitutes ‘good’ water quality.

For citizen science projects to operate with consistency, it is necessary for guidelines and thresholds to be clear, accessible and comprehensive. Planet Patrol recommends that thresholds are reviewed, considering the specificities of geographical location and also that bathing status standards are expanded to reflect environmental risk as well as those to human health.

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