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Stop polluting our rivers! CPRE Berkshire calls for government action

8 November 2023

Recent cases of sickness caused by pollution in the River Kennet have led the Berkshire Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to call for the Environment Agency to be given wider powers and more resources to monitor river pollution and to prevent the water companies from releasing raw sewage into our rivers and streams.

Water pollution is an increasing problem throughout England, caused both by sewage discharges into rivers and by chemical run-off from agricultural land, says CPRE. The people and wildlife of Berkshire are increasingly at risk due to the repeated failures of the water industry to keep the rivers clean, the charity warns. In recent months there have been numerous documented examples of pollution getting into the River Kennet, the River Pang and the Foudry Brook, among others.   

“Chalk streams like the River Pang and the River Kennet are extremely important in terms of biodiversity,” says CPRE Berkshire Chairman Greg Wilkinson. “The water in these streams is usually clear as it contains very little sediment. In fact there are only 210 chalk streams in the entire world, the majority of which are here in England. This makes it all the more crucial that we protect the water quality in the Kennet and the Pang.”

However, the Pang was recently downgraded to ‘poor’ ecological status by the Environment Agency, the Government body responsible for environmental quality, due to repeated sewage discharges into the river. “Just a few years ago it was still classified as ‘good’, then put down to ‘moderate’ and is now classed as ‘poor’. What on earth is going on?”

Thames Water has insisted that tackling the problem of discharges “will take time and investment”, but Greg Wilkinson believes the situation is urgent and there should be no more delays before action is taken. “We are facing a water quality emergency which requires immediate action. We have had too many excuses from Thames Water. CPRE’s view is that the Government should step in and give the Environment Agency the powers and resources it needs to ensure that the water companies clean up our rivers and are no longer allowed to release sewage and other pollutants into the water.”

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has revealed that in England and Wales four out of five rivers have failed to achieve a ‘good’ ecological status in the last year, and that more than half of these are being polluted by sewage and waste water. CPRE Berkshire believes this is a problem that “cannot be ignored any longer here in the Royal County.”

Earlier this year, CPRE Berkshire issued a “Manifesto for Berkshire’s Countryside”, to guide council candidates in the local council elections, and cleaning up the county’s rivers and waterways was identified as a major priority in those elections. The charity is currently working on a new manifesto that it will use in the forthcoming General Election to highlight the many environmental problems and challenges facing communities in Berkshire which it wants the political parties and their local candidates to agree to tackle.

To report a case of water pollution, please contact the Environment Agency Incident Hotline, 0800 80 70 60.