The importance of good water quality

Did you know that figures released by The Environment Agency in September 2020 showed that all English rivers have failed to meet quality tests for pollution and that there has been no improvement in the state of English rivers since 2016.

Figures show that “no river has achieved good chemical status”, and suggested “pollution from sewage discharge, chemicals and agriculture are having a huge impact on river quality”.

Why is good quality water important?

People and nature SURVIVE and businesses THRIVE when water is healthy. When it becomes polluted, it has an effect on crops and wildlife as well as our health and water bills!

What Can Pollute the Water?

Whilst farming and agriculture is not the sole cause of water pollution, it does make a contribution. How? From rainwater run-off from fields and buildings. This run-off (caused by rainfall) can carry sediments, nutrients, pesticides, herbicides and faecal contamination into ditches, streams, rivers and ponds. The difficulty is - these pollutants are an essential part of having livestock and arable farming in order to increase yield.

Farmers have been issued guidance from The Environment Agency to try to prevent manure, fertiliser and soil from entering the waterways (diffuse water pollution). This includes

  • assessing the risks of run-off and soil erosion that apply to their land and activities;
  • planning each application of manure and fertiliser;
  • risk factors for run-off when storing manure;
  • taking reasonable precautions to prevent soil loss caused by horticultural and farming activities.
  • reasonable precautions to prevent pollution from managing livestock.

The rules can be enforced by The Environment Agency through farm inspections.

Farmers who can manage their land to reduce run-off, not only reduce water pollution but they also conserve one of their most precious resources, the soil.


Water Companies

It is the role of water companies to ensure that the water they provide to customers complies with drinking water standards and in the past this has been done by building expensive treatment plants to remove the pollution from the water.

The water industry is now trying a new “catchment” approach where they are working with some farmers and the environment to provide improved water quality. The schemes are providing useful information as to how Ecosystem services (clean air, good water quality and good soil condition) can be delivered.


Overall, water quality data evidently shows urgent action in needed to address pollution to ensure our waterways are in good health. Click here for more information.