The Guardian reports the River Frome murmurs and babbles through the woods and fields of north Somerset. It is popular with anglers and wild swimmers but is often polluted with a cocktail of agricultural runoff, leading to frequent complaints from the public.
In 2018, Frome Town Council tried to pass a bylaw giving part of the river and the adjacent Rodden meadow the status of a person in law. This would establish their right to exist, flourish and thrive, and for the river to flow freely and have a natural water cycle, as well as ensuring timely and effective restoration if they were damaged.
The council and a local charity, Friends of the River Frome, were to be made joint guardians of the river and meadow, tasked with balancing their interests with the health and safety of local people.
The Guardian reports there will be a rise in the scale of sewage discharge into rivers and waterways due to extreme weather events as a result of the climate crisis, MPs have been told.
Nature-based solutions must be a top priority for the government and the water regulator, Ofwat, when it comes to water companies’ investment over the coming decades, MPs heard. By 2050, the English sewerage system would face a 55% increase in water flowing through the network as a result of increased urbanisation and the removal of natural surfaces, which help water drain away.
The BBC reports plans to go ahead with the restoration of mud flats have been put back after concerns were raised by campaigners about the effect on nesting birds. The project would have involved the removal of vegetation on the River Otter estuary in Devon, starting on Tuesday.
The Environment Agency (EA) said the start of work was “being reviewed”. The rescheduling followed involvement from the RSPB and wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham. The RSPB said it supported the restoration scheme, but it was the wrong time of year.
The Guardian reports the scale of water companies illegally discharging sewage is 10 times greater than the Environment Agency (EA) estimates, MPs have been told.
Peter Hammond, former professor of computational biology at University College London, now retired, said his analysis of sewage treatment works found in 2020 alone 160 breaches of permits granted by the watchdog to allow sewage discharges. The EA has only prosecuted 174 cases of illegal discharges in the last 10 years, he said on Wednesday.
The BBC reports water companies have been illegally dumping untreated sewage into rivers in England and Wales, an investigation by BBC Panorama has found. Data analysed by the programme showed some companies have regularly breached the conditions in their permits.
Treatment works are only allowed to put sewage into waterways after wet weather and when they are close to capacity. The water industry says it will invest more than a billion pounds over five years to reduce discharges into rivers. Treatment works are allowed to release sewage into rivers and streams after extreme weather, such as torrential rain, and when they are operating close to full capacity.
BBC News, The Guardian, and The Times report water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers in England more than 400,000 times in 2020, according to new figures published by the Environment Agency.
Untreated effluent, including human waste, wet wipes and condoms, was released into waterways for more than three million hours last year. Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said that his organisation was “working actively with the water companies to ensure overflows are properly controlled”.
The Guardian, and The Times report the environment minister, Rebecca Pow, has promised to bring in legislation to reduce discharge of raw sewage into rivers.
Pow said that she would be placing a legal duty on government to come up with a plan to cut dumping by water companies by September 2022. Pressure has been growing on water companies and ministers as evidence grows of the scale of the issue and amid increasing evidence of the poor state of rivers.
The BBC reports a new salmon law is being proposed that could ban anglers from taking their catch home. The Environment Agency proposed the measure and said it was needed to protect salmon stocks that are in decline. Consultations are under way.
If the by-law was introduced it would apply to salmon fishing along the length of the River Severn. The Severn Fisheries Group, which represents 30,000 anglers, said that might encourage more poaching.
The Guardian reports for many of us across the UK it has felt like another wet winter; yet again homes have flooded and politicians are under pressure to improve flood protection. Engineering our rivers and building defences might bring reassurance, but recent research shows that doing nothing is often more effective at reducing flooding.