Sir James Bevan sets the record straight

In his speech yesterday (22 February) at the World Water Tech Innovation Summit, Sir James Bevan aimed to ‘set the record straight on water’.

Talking to attendees at the summit, Sir James tackled what he called the ‘three common myths’ about water:

Myth number 1: “all our waters are in a terrible state.”

Myth number 2: “the state of our rivers is the Environment Agency’s fault.”

Myth number 3: “the biggest problem we have is water quality”

Addressing myth number 2, Sir James said:

“I hear this a lot. It is true that as the environmental regulator it’s the Environment Agency’s job to protect our waters, that we don’t always succeed, that we should listen to criticism (we do), and that while we have a strong track record we should – like all good organisations – always be seeking to do better.

“But our ability to protect our waters depends on us having the powers and resources to do that, and that hasn’t always been the case. More fundamentally, the EA is not responsible for the pollution in our waters. The people responsible for that are the people who pollute them, and it is on the polluters that most of the fire should be directed. They need to clean up their act. I agree with Ofwat that water company chief executives should have their pay linked to levels of pollution their companies cause.

“We need to remember though that the polluters are not just big water companies or careless businesses – they are us, the public, too. Every time we flush a wetwipe down the toilet or pour cooking oil down the sink the end result is to pollute one of our watercourses. Every time we leave the tap running unnecessarily we take water out of a river, lake or aquifer and put a bit more strain on the environment.”

Many environmental campaigners took to social media last night in response to the speech, a lot of which was not particularly supportive of the EA’s performance.

The full speech can be read here.



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