The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) expresses concern and is urging the UK government to ensure transparency and a collaborative approach in the development of new water monitoring standards, in light of the recent announcement to diverge from European Union (EU) water monitoring standards.
The EIC is calling for greater transparency, collaboration, and thorough review of the proposed changes to ensure that water monitoring standards in the UK are robust, effective, and suitable for the country's unique situation. The EIC emphasises the need for a more balanced and holistic approach to water quality assessment moving forward.
The UK government's decision to diverge from EU water quality monitoring standards has left many questions unanswered. While the new monitoring methodology is yet to be fully disclosed, it is crucial that the public and stakeholders understand the potential risks and benefits of this change. The EIC highlights the importance of transparency in unveiling the specifics of the proposed monitoring system.
One of the primary concerns is the "one-out-all-out" approach, where a single parameter can label a water body as failing. This approach can sometimes exaggerate perceived declines in water quality, causing unnecessary concern. To ensure that data accurately reflects the state of our rivers and waterways, the EIC calls for a thorough review of this approach to provide a more balanced assessment of water quality.
Issues such as sewer overflows and surface water runoff also require a closer examination. The EIC recognises that placing sole blame on water companies overlooks historical underinvestment and the impact of planning regulations. A comprehensive solution that considers broader context is necessary to address these challenges.
Budget cuts to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency have significantly impacted water and ecological monitoring in the UK. Adequate funding is crucial to establish a functional system that can effectively monitor and manage water quality in our rivers and water bodies.
The EIC believes that rethinking the Water Framework Directive (WFD) monitoring standards is a welcome step if it leads to a system better suited to the UK's unique situation. However, this should not come at the cost of setting unrealistic standards. Monitoring methods should be robust and reliable, and the standards against which data is assessed should be based on a holistic understanding of our aquatic ecosystems.
The water industry can play a crucial role in mitigating the negative impacts of this change on water quality. Working in partnership with the government to develop meaningful and workable standards is essential. Moreover, water companies should take on a more holistic approach to water management by considering the entire catchment area of a river, rather than just the specific areas where they operate. This would allow them to better address the interconnected challenges that affect water quality, such as pollution from agriculture and runoff from urban areas. Water companies should work with other stakeholders, such as farmers and landowners, to develop and implement solutions that benefit the entire catchment.
The EIC calls on the UK government to engage in a transparent and collaborative process to establish effective water monitoring standards. Our rivers and waterways are essential resources that require the utmost care and attention.