Government is not on track to meet the Environmental Objectives under the Water Framework Directive - Earthwatch

Government is not on track to meet the Environmental Objectives under the Water Framework Directive

A new report by the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) has found that: most of England’s water bodies are in an unsatisfactory state. While levels of some individual pollutants have been reduced over the years, pollution and other pressures are still problematic. The pace of change has stalled and only 16% of surface waters currently meet the WFD Regulations’ objectives of ‘Good Ecological Status’ or ‘Good Ecological Potential’

The OEP is a public body that protects and improves the environment by holding government and other public authorities to account. 

In their latest report, they have looked at whether plans to improve England’s water bodies will be enough to meet the ‘Environmental Objectives’ under the Water Framework Directive Regulations, which serves to protect the UK’s water environments by preventing their deterioration and improving their quality. 

The report’s conclusions are damning: Government is not on track to meet the Environmental Objectives it has set under the regulations. 

What is holding back progress?

A number of factors have been identified in holding back progress. Among them, a lack of investment in measures to address all environmental pressures and gaps in monitoring are particularly problematic

To maximise environmental improvements and the likelihood of meeting the Environmental Objectives, the OEP highlight a need for Government and the EA to identify additional practical and specific measures with committed funding.

“The EA has  calculated a cost of £51 billion to achieve the Environmental Objectives. However, confirmed funding of only £6.2 billion is just 12% of that required.”  

EOP Report, May 2024

This is where citizen science can make a huge impact.

Citizen science is the active involvement of non-scientists in scientific research; including in environmental monitoring, data collection and data analysis

As the OEP have indicated, we need good data so that we can take action to restore our rivers and freshwater systems. This is why Earthwatch Europe have launched our Great UK WaterBlitz: to help build a national picture of water quality across the UK. 

Join the Great UK WaterBlitz

This year we’ve launched the Great UK WaterBlitz to help build a national picture of water quality across the UK. Over the weekend of 7-10 June, we’re asking people across the UK to go out and measure the water quality of their local rivers; specifically the levels of two polluting nutrients, nitrate and phosphate. With this data we can build a snapshot of the health of our rivers throughout the country. 

Nitrates and phosphates are commonly present in domestic and industrial waste and sewage, as well as in the fertilisers that wash off farmland. High levels of nutrients trigger a process called eutrophication, in which excessive plant and algal growth leads to high levels of bacteria, which in turn decrease oxygen levels in the water, killing plants and animals. 

 “Levels of phosphate account for more surface water bodies failing to achieve Good Ecological Status or Potential than any other water quality pressure.” 

EOP Report, May 2024

By collecting data on the levels of nitrates and phosphates, we can build a snapshot of the health of our rivers throughout the country. Sign up to the Great UK WaterBlitz now, and help us to evidence the poor health of our rivers. With this data, we can fight for real change. 

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