Why official data could show a decline in England’s water quality

A crucial official report on the health of England’s rivers and lakes has been kicked into the long grass in a move designed, some observers have suggested, to avoid political embarrassment ahead of the general election.

DEFRA’s performance against water quality targets set out under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) began badly and has got progressively worse. By 2015, all rivers and lakes were supposed to have achieved ‘good ecological status’ as defined by the directive, but at the last assessment in 2016, just 14% of rivers and 16% of lakes made the grade, with the proportion dropping each year since 2014. 

In 2016, an ENDS analysis revealing that a later target of 2021 would be missed was followed by Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan telling a House of Commons committee that the ultimate deadline of 2027 would also not be met. 

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