Public pressure ‘helping improve UK environmental performance’
26 Jul 2021
The rise of citizen science is placing increasing pressure on water companies to improve their environmental performance and protect river and bathing water quality, says the chair of the UK Parliament Environmental Audit Committee.
Philip Dunne MP said the water sector must get better at communicating the challenges of tackling pollution and why there is an urgent need for better collaboration between utilities, government bodies, regulators and customers.
He was speaking during a keynote address at the Zero Pollutions Conference 2021, hosted by technology consultancy Isle.
“The public is becoming increasingly concerned about the environment in general, and especially around the state of beaches and rivers. Those who have responsibility for managing water need to be aware – it is not going to go away," said Dunne.
“All those who bear responsibilities need to develop robust strategies to try to manage their contribution to these challenges. Collaboration and cooperation will be key. There needs a united voice to communicate with the public.”
The conference, hosted by Isle to support the UK water sector efforts achieve ambitious pollution targets over the next five years, took place days after Southern Water was fined a record £90 million after pleading guilty to 6,971 unpermitted sewage discharges between 2010-2015.
Helen Wakeham, deputy director of water quality, groundwater and land contamination, at the Environment Agency defended water companies, saying some public criticism was simplistic.
“The public debate on water quality and pollutions is at risk of being oversimplified – generally people do not understand how wastewater systems work. It’s complicated, challenging and there are things people can do individually to help,”she responded.
“The risk is we become so focused on water company failings that we lose sight of how everyone can make a difference in preventing pollutions.”
Isle’s UK managing director Dr Ben Tam acknowledged the industry wass working hard to tackle but added the sector needed to engage more with the public as the debate had evolved.