Water pollution levels 'simply unacceptable'

Environment Agency report on water companies found serious pollution incidents in England increased.

Simply unacceptable. 

Michael Gove is calling in the bosses of English water companies for a meeting after their efforts to protect the environment were branded "simply unacceptable".

The Environment Agency's (EA) annual report into the environmental performance of water companies found serious pollution incidents in England increased last year, and most firms are set to fail to meet pollution targets for 2020.

Overall water company performance has deteriorated, reversing the trend of gradual improvement in the sector since 2011, and in 2018 was simply unacceptable, the report warned last week.


Mr Gove previously described the report as "damning", insisting that "water companies have a responsibility to distribute our most precious natural resource, and must act as stewards of our environment".

The environment secretary is now calling in the chief executives of the water companies, alongside regulators Ofwat, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, the Consumer Council for Water and the EA to meet on Thursday.

The meeting will run through water company performance and the government's priorities for the sector, as well as progress and planned action from everyone involved, officials said.

Next generation

Mr Gove is expected to say that while there are limited positive performances from water companies and an ambition to do better, he is not seeing enough immediate improvements on environmental performance, leaks and supply and customer experience.

The meeting comes after Mr Gove gave a speech at Kew Gardens on Tuesday, which may be his last as environment secretary, in which he said the role water companies were playing in ensuring rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters were in a good condition "is simply not good enough".

He said the government's priorities for the water sector were to secure resilient water supplies, protect customers from potentially unaffordable bills and make sure there was a cleaner, greener country for the next generation.

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Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.

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