Privatised water companies discharged raw sewage into our seas and rivers over 400,000 times in 2020. This shocking practise pollutes our waters leaving just 14% of England’s rivers meeting good ecological standards. As a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, I recently saw first-hand the damage raw sewage discharges have caused in Oxfordshire and the urgent need for stronger regulations and better enforcement.
In addition to harmful bacteria, nitrogen and phosphates, the unmonitored discharges also includes substances such as microplastics, antibiotics and hormones which water companies aren’t required to measure or remove from waste water, but which also harm aquatic life and in turn enter our food chain.
Locally, we have seen the consistent failure of Thames Water to invest in aging pipes and sewers. This has led to recurrent bursts and leaks which waste water and cause disruption on local roads. The quality of workmanship when repairs are undertaken is also frequently shoddy, with new leaks and bursts often occurring within days of repairs being completed. This is all evidence of a water industry which is not fit for purpose.
We face a climate and ecological emergency. Our water system has an important role to play in cleaning up our natural waterways and reduce water wastage but privatised water companies, under pressure to deliver a return to shareholders, cannot deliver the investment that is needed. The water industry should be returned to common ownership so that it can focus on delivering functioning clean water infrastructure and be part of the solution to the challenge of nature recovery. You can watch my speech here >>