Agriculture causing water pollution, says think tank

Water companies have had to clean up water pollution caused by agriculture, according to a new Green Alliance report.

The report states that while the government paid £36.6bn in basic subsidy payments to farmers between 1995 and 2015, water companies spent £20bn in the same period on environmental improvements to water, often in clean up efforts.

The report claims that agriculture and land management are responsible for nearly a third of failures to meet water targets, mainly arising from fertilisers, manures and pesticide pollution caused by agriculture.

The Green Alliance say they believe the UK’s new post-Brexit farm subsidy scheme, aimed at environmental restoration, should be better aligned with water companies’ environmental spending.

‘As this report clearly explains, we are subsidising farming practices that pollute our waterways, with water companies being forced to pick up the tab,’ said Angela Smith, MP in the report’s foreword.

‘And so we must ensure that any subsidy scheme that comes after Brexit is taken as an opportunity to increase environmental standards by, for example, incentivising farmers to play their part in avoiding pollution of our watercourses.

‘That is why, as a passionate environmentalist and champion of real investment in our public services, I do not want to go back to the 1980s when Britain was labelled the ‘dirty man of Europe’, with beaches overflowing with sewage, filthy rivers, excessive power station emissions and a poor conservation framework.

According to the report, 84% of England’s waters are failing to meet environmental standards.

The Environment Agency estimates that restoring three-quarters of water bodies in England to ‘good’ status by 2027 will bring £22.5bn in benefits to England by reducing the cost of treating water over the long term.

They believe that by reducing pollution by enough to achieve just a 25% reduction in operating costs would bring savings of £1.6m for a nitrate removal plant and £7.5m for a pesticide removal plant over 25 years.


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