Major River Pollution Found in 75% of UK Rivers in Citizen-Led Testing

Major River Pollution Found in 75% of UK Rivers

A nationwide river testing initiative this summer revealed that 75% of Britain’s rivers are in poor ecological health, primarily due to pollution from water companies and agricultural runoff. The survey, organized by Earthwatch Europe, saw volunteers measure water quality in over 1,300 locations from June 7-10.

The findings are alarming, with rivers in the south-east and East Anglia, including the Thames basin, showing some of the worst results. In these regions, 89% of rivers failed to meet good ecological health standards. Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire recorded the highest levels of nutrient pollution, with 91% and 89% of rivers respectively failing the tests. In contrast, Northumberland and Gwent had the best results, with all rivers meeting acceptable levels of nutrient pollution.

Dr. Sasha Woods, Director of Science and Policy at Earthwatch Europe, emphasized the dire state of the Thames river basin and called for a comprehensive national strategy for freshwater management. The report aligns with findings from the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), which highlighted the government’s failure to meet environmental objectives and noted significant gaps in river monitoring.

The citizen-led initiative, known as the Great UK WaterBlitz, focused on measuring nitrates and phosphates, pollutants commonly found in sewage and agricultural runoff. High levels of these nutrients lead to excessive plant growth, reduced oxygen levels, and the decline of aquatic life.

Woods stressed the importance of improved wastewater treatment and reduced agricultural pollution to protect vulnerable freshwater systems. She also advocated for increased citizen science testing and better utilization of this data by the Environment Agency.

As the UK government aims to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030, Woods warned that this goal would be meaningless without addressing the severe pollution in the nation’s rivers.