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River Action Letter to the new Prime Minister and Environment Secretary

Today, River Action has written to the new UK Prime Minister and Environment Secretary to congratulate them on their new appointments – but also to urge them to take immediate action to address the appalling state of the UK’s rivers.


In this letter, we have clearly explained the key drivers of the river crisis:

  • The discharge of untreated sewage into rivers – data shows that raw sewage was discharged into English rivers 375,000 times in 2021 across a total of 3.1 million hours.
  • Agricultural pollution – responsible for 40% of damage to our waterways.

We have also laid out clear steps for the new Government to follow in order to address the pollution crisis on our rivers:

  1. Setting a clear overall national target under the Environment Act for restoring our rivers to health.
  2. Substantially strengthening proposed targets under the Environment Act for the reduction of agricultural pollution in our rivers.
  3. Setting targets on a catchment-specific basis so that rapid action can be mobilised on rivers such as the Wye where we have just a couple of years left to prevent complete ecological collapse.
  4. Using agricultural support payments to support farmers who do the right thing for our rivers and wildlife.
  5. Maintaining and strengthening the legal protections given to our rivers including nutrient neutrality requirements and habitats regulations.
  6. Giving regulators the powers and duties to protect our rivers – and the capacity and resources to do so.
  7. Developing a soil fertiliser and fertility plan to dramatically reduce our dependence on imported inorganic fertilisers and increase nutrient recycling whereby incentives are created for the processing and relocation of manure – to both protect our rivers and also reduce vulnerability of the food system to geopolitical shocks.
Read the full letter here.

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