A sobering new report says that only five of England and Wales‘s 6,000 rivers are in pristine condition.

Four of those are in Northumberland, and the other is the Caletwr in Conwy, Wales, according to the Environment Agency (EA) Assessment, which also revealed that only 26% of rivers are in Good status (the required European standard).

This means that 74% are failing and 117 of them, including the Stour estuary, the Nar in Norfolk and part of the Trent, are classified as Bad, among the worst in Europe.

The Our Rivers campaign is calling on the Government for tougher action against those who pollute waterways.

‘There’s no doubt that the millions of pounds invested by the water industry over the past two decades has brought real improvements,’ says Mark Avery of the RSPB. ‘But these figures show how far we have to go.’

Defra Minister Hilary Benn has three months to decide if the EA’s plans are ambitious enough. It has to achieve the new European Water Framework Directive, which requires the UK to bring all of its rivers up to Good status or above by 2015. At present, only 300 rivers are predicted to fulfil that brief.

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