Water challenge issued to Government

Tuesday 9th November 2010

A unique coalition of 14 leading environmental organisations* has issued a joint call to the coalition Government to take action on wasted water, pollution and wetland wildlife.

The new Blueprint for Water is published today and sets out how the Government could ensure the health and sustainability of England’s water environment by 2015.

While some positive moves have been made, there is much more to be done. The Government needs to take its responsibilities to the water environment seriously if it is to deliver on its promise of being the greenest government ever.

The report sets out proposals to reduce pollutants in our water environment and to make polluters pay for the damage they cause. It calls for the statutory limit on fines for polluters to be lifted and for greater enforcement of existing anti-pollution laws.

There is a call for fairer water pricing so bills reflect the amount of water households use, as with most other developed countries. The overall volume of water consumed needs to reduced by 20 per cent through less wastage, and abstraction licences should be revoked where they damage the ecology of rivers, lakes and wetlands.

Farmers can play a vital role in ensuring healthy rivers and wetlands and the Blueprint call for more EU and UK Government money to be available for payments to farmers for environmental schemes on their land. Reducing pesticide and fertiliser use, restoring peat bogs and tackling over-grazing can all help improve water quality and wildlife.

Rob Cunningham, Chair of the Blueprint for Water coalition, said: “We all rely on water in our homes and businesses, on our farms and in our factories. It is also vital for a wide range of wildlife from fish and invertebrates to wading birds and mammals. It is a precious resource but all too often we take it for granted.

“A lot has happened since we launched the first Blueprint for Water four years ago but much more needs to be done by 2015 if we are going to ensure that our waters are clean, our wildlife is healthy and that we are best-placed to meet the impacts of climate change. We are resetting the challenge for a new decade and a new administration – as well as committing to actions of our own.

“Industry, Government, conservation bodies and the wider society all have a role to play in creating a sustainable water environment. We know this can be done and we know what steps need to be taken to achieve it – now we need to see real commitment from decision makers to ensure it happens.”

Helen Perkins, Water for Wildlife project manager for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Water is a lifeline for people and wildlife and in the context of a changing climate we must redouble our efforts to protect this valuable resource. We are playing our part by restoring, recreating and reconnecting rivers and wetlands and through our education work which increases understanding of the links between water-use and wildlife.

“We now need Government to instigate a package of reforms that will stop pollution, address the issue of damaging abstractions, help farmers to become more water-friendly and enable us all to become more water- efficient.”

The pressure on rivers, wetlands, lakes and ponds has seen wading birds like curlew and snipe decline by up to 60 per cent, eel populations have been devastated and water voles, white clawed crayfish, Atlantic salmon and a host of other species are also threatened.

Habitats and historic assets, which rely on clean and healthy water supplies are being lost from our landscape. Ninety per cent of raised lowland bogs have been lost in the past 100 years and there are 75 per cent fewer ponds and floodplain grasslands in the UK. Government figures also show that more than two thirds of river and England and Wales are failing European targets for water quality.

* The Blueprint for water coalition is made of up the following 14 organisations;
• Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
• Angling Trust
• Association of Rivers Trusts
• Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust
• Council of British Archaeology
• Marine Conservation Society
• National Trust
• Pond Conservation
• Salmon & Trout Association
• The Wildlife Trusts
• Waterwise
• Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

Story by RSWT
More Information

The new report sets out ten steps towards achieving a sustainable water environment;

• Waste less water - Reduce water consumption by at least 20% through more efficient use in homes, buildings and businesses.
• Keep our rivers flowing and wetlands wet - Reform abstraction licensing to reduce pressure on rivers, lakes and wetlands today and increase flexibility to adapt to future climate change.
• Price water fairly - Make household water bills reflect the amount of water people use.
• Make polluters pay - Make those who damage the water environment bear the costs through more effective law enforcement, tougher penalties and fairer charges.
• Stop pollutants contaminating our water - Introduce targeted regulations to reduce harmful pollutants in water.
• Keep sewage out of homes and rivers and off beaches - Reduce discharges of sewage into urban environments and ecologically sensitive areas.
• Support water-friendly farming - Support and reward farmers who deliver healthy rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands, and provide a range of other benefits to society.
• Slow, manage and clean drainage from roads and buildings - Create a modern urban drainage network that can mitigate surface water flooding and trap pollution.
• Protect and restore catchments from source to sea - Protect, and restore rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands in partnership with local communities.
• Retain water on floodplains and wetlands - Restore large areas of wetland and floodplain to create and link vital wildlife habitats, improve water quality, protect soil carbon and reduce urban flooding.