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Water: Standards

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 82068, tabled on 25 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to ensure that water in English rivers, lakes and seas does not pose a serious risk to human health.

Answered on

30 November 2021

Improving water quality is a Government priority and we are taking significant action in this area for people and nature. The Environment Act sets a duty on the Government to publish a storm overflow discharge reduction plan by September 2022. This plan will address reducing the adverse impacts on public health of sewage discharges from storm overflows.

Where rivers are designated as Bathing Waters, the Environment Agency monitors water quality and classifies bathing waters in line with the health protective standards of the Bathing Water Regulations (2013) and publishes an annual classification of Poor, Sufficient, Good or Excellent. It must also exercise its pollution control powers to achieve at least Sufficient status. Currently there is one river with designated Bathing Water Status, the River Wharfe at Ilkley. This was monitored for the first time during the 2021 Bathing Water Season (15th May - 30th September). The classification result will be published in January 2022.

The Environment Agency publishes a profile for each designated Bathing Water on its Swimfo website (, which provides water quality testing results, the annual classification and information on pollution sources affecting each Bathing Water.

The Environment Agency and the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) have published Swim Healthy guidance on Gov.UK