The Guardian has revealed that the UK government will diverge from the European Union’s standards for monitoring water quality in England. From the report: While in the EU, England was covered by the water framework directive (WFD), which meant a national chemical and ecological survey of rivers was conducted annually. After Brexit, the WFD was transposed into English law but the government removed the requirement to conduct annual tests. This is the latest example of the UK diverging from EU environmental standards. Recent analysis found that many toxic chemicals and pesticides banned in the bloc since Brexit are not outlawed for use in the UK. Ministers have also sought to rip up EU-derived sewage pollution rules for housebuilders.
In 2019, the last time the full water assessments took place, just 14% of rivers were in good ecological health and none met standards for good chemical health. The government has said it does not intend to deliver a complete update until 2025, the latest permissible date under the new WFD. The Guardian can reveal that the government will be using its own, as yet undisclosed methodology to assess river health. Activists say this may make it harder to compare the state of the country’s rivers against those in the EU, and will leave the public in the dark over pollution from sewage and agriculture. Stuart Singleton-White, of the Angling Trust, said: “WFD has been the bedrock of us understanding the state of our rivers, lakes and groundwater. It does not give a full picture, but it does provide a useful starting point. Past assessments have shown things are getting worse, not better. To now not have a full assessment in 2022 and have to wait to 2025 … simply sows confusion and leaves the public in the dark when it comes to properly understanding whether our rivers are getting better or worse.”