Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs sent Rivercide the following statements and information:
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
"There is a vast amount of pressure on our water environment from our growing population, water companies, industry, agriculture and climate change.
"Our farming reforms – the most significant changes for the sector in 50 years – will help tackle this. Farmers will be paid for actions that improve the environment and help achieve clean and plentiful water, including reducing pollution from run-off into rivers.
"Work to improve compliance among farmers with regulations that protect our waters is also at an advanced stage. This will include increasing the Environment Agency’s budget to inspect high-risk farms and take action where necessary.”
- To read more about our future farming reforms and the Agriculture Act, which became law in November 2020, please see here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/landmark-agriculture-bill-becomes-law
Catchment Sensitive Farming
- Catchment Sensitive Farming is an advice service delivered by Natural England (NE) and Environment Agency (EA) providing free specialist advice on a 1-2-1 and face to face basis to farmers in Countryside Stewardship (CS) high priority areas for water.
- It operates across 40 – 45% England in the areas of highest risk of water pollution from agriculture. By January 2018 they had advised over 24,000 farmers.
- Catchment Sensitive Farming has successfully:
- reduced the occurrence of serious water pollution incidents by 17% where it has been consistently focussed;
- worked with farmers to make over £100m available to them from grants and incentives to deliver environmental outcomes;
- Grants are available to farmers via Countryside Stewardship to manage water pollution and improve water quality, including:
- providing hard bases for livestock drinking and feeding.
- providing livestock with alternative drinking sources - away from watercourses and ponds.
- installing storage tanks, lined bio-beds, and livestock troughs.
- improvement to yards, gates, culverts and tracks, to reduce soil erosion, and reduce sediment and pollution entering a watercourse.
- Defra is offering a slurry investment scheme from 2022, to help reduce pollution from farming and contribute to the 25 Year Environment Plan, Clean Air Strategy, and governments commitments to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- The scheme will aim to help farmers and land managers prepare for increasingly effective and comprehensive enforcement of the rules about slurry management over the transition period.
Farming Rules for Water
- The Farming Rules for Water regulations (2018) create a national baseline for good farm practices. They require land managers to take reasonable precautions to prevent diffuse pollution from occurring. Reasonable precautions are actions that a land manager might be expected to do in order to prevent runoff or soil erosion. The Government is currently reviewing these rules to ensure that our regulations to protect the environment from agricultural pollution are as effective as possible whilst minimising costs to business.
Environment Agency Chief Executive Sir James Bevan said:
"The overall water quality in our rivers and bathing waters is far better today than it was twenty years ago. Where there is a robust regulatory framework and the resources to enforce it, we have seen great improvement. But in many of our rivers water quality is now flatlining, and there is much more to do. The two biggest polluters – water companies and farmers – need to go further and faster to ensure their activities do not damage our waters.
The Environment Agency is committed to securing clean and plentiful water for all. We take our responsibility to protect our waters from harm extremely seriously. We will not hesitate to take action against those who break the law and damage the environment, and we will do all we can to ensure they pay a heavy price. Our successful prosecution of Southern Water for grave pollution offences, securing a record £90m fine, sends a clear signal to polluters that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”
On EA monitoring cuts
- The Environment Agency plays a key role in protecting water for people’s lives and livelihoods – by responding to pollution incidents, regulating abstraction and improving water quality along rivers and beaches.
- With significant pressures on funding in recent years we have had to reduce overall monitoring below the level we would wish. However, we have sought to increase our efficiency by targeting our monitoring efforts in a risk-based manner to address the challenges of meeting water quality objectives.
- We spent £25m on water quality monitoring during 2019-20.
- This includes monitoring of all water categories (rivers, lakes, groundwater, estuarine and coastal waters) and includes all measures of water quality (i.e. water chemistry, plant, invertebrates and fish).
- The costs include gathering samples, in field measurements, analysis in our laboratories and the assessment of the results.
- Under treasury rules, not all of our environmental monitoring can be paid for with charge income; there must be a component of Grant in Aid (GiA) to reflect the pressures on the water environment not resulting from chargeable activities.
- The GiA the Environment Agency receives from Government for environmental protection and regulation has reduced in recent years. GiA funding for monitoring fell from £7.4M in 2016/17 to £3.3M in 2020/21, equating to a reduction of over 55%.
- Additional investment in our monitoring capability and capacity is fundamental to delivering government priorities. This will be reflected in our SR21 bids.
On Farming Rules for Water
- The Farming Rules for Water came into effect in 2018 and in order to support farmers, we chose an advice and guidance-led introduction to these new regulations instead of penalising them. If advice is not heeded we will not hesitate to pursue whatever sanctions are necessary – including penalties, formal cautions or prosecutions.
On River Wye pollution
- This is an iconic location of importance to many people, and we are working collaboratively with a range of stakeholders and partners, including Natural England and those in Wales, to address concerns about phosphate levels in the River Wye.
- In Herefordshire, diffuse pollution from agriculture is now a serious issue, causing significant damage to a number of the county’s sensitive watercourses.
- We are targeting regulatory activity towards high risk areas (e.g. sloping fields with bare soil) and activities (e.g. spreading) and at locations where we have records of previous pollution incidents.
- We have reminded farmers that they are legally obliged to test soils and to prevent significant run-off. Any breach of the regulations may result in an investigation and enforcement action being considered.
Catchment Sensitive Farming
The Catchment Sensitive Farming Programme has successfully:
- reduced the occurrence of serious water pollution incidents by 17% where it has been consistently focused;
- persuaded farmers to implement an estimated 76,700 actions to reduce pollution, with 87% of those actions assessed to be ‘mostly effective’;
- worked with farmers to make over £100m available to them from grants and incentives to deliver environmental outcomes; and
- resulted in 4 to 8 times greater pollution reduction from farms in agri-environment schemes that also implemented CSF advice
Thames Water sent Rivercide the following statement:
"We strongly believe that discharges of untreated sewage are unacceptable, even when they are legally permitted, and we will work with the government, Ofwat and the Environment Agency to accelerate work to stop them being necessary. We have a long way to go – and we certainly can’t do it on our own – but the ambition is clear."
"Our aim will always be to try and do the right thing for our rivers and for the communities who love and value them. We’re working with local partners and actively listening to our customers, who have clearly told us to do more to protect these incredible environments."
"We recognise that Mogden struggles to reliably and consistently meet the required flow to treatment, and have a fully-costed plan in place to address this. The project will take place over the next couple of years and is likely to cost in excess of £100m."
"This investment, along with the new ways we’re trialling to protect rivers across the region, will improve the situation and we’re keen to do more work in partnership with local organisations."
- During periods of very wet weather, the sewer network can get overwhelmed. In October last year, we experienced an exceptionally wet start to the month, including Storm Alex which moved across the area on October 2 and continued in to October 3 and 4.
- The sewage from storm tanks at treatment sites is partially treated (screened and settled) before it’s discharged having been through the initial stages of the treatment process.