UK water companies unite to help drive health of Britain's rivers 

Monday 14th March 2022

• Severn Trent and Anglian Water have come together to pledge to Get River Positive by 2030

• Five key steps to prevent harm to UK rivers and ensure they can thrive

• Commitment to ensure storm overflows and sewage treatment works do not harm rivers

• Improvements will ensure that 90% of regions’ population live less than one hour away from a designated bathing site


Two UK water companies have announced a Get River Positive Plan: five pledges to transform river water quality across their regions.

The commitments are a clear and actionable response to calls for a revival of rivers in England.  Central to the pledges is a commitment that work carried out by both water companies will ensure storm overflows and sewage treatment works do not harm our rivers.

The Get River Positive plan is underpinned by five key pledges that set a framework for the water companies to lead the charge in protecting and revitalising rivers. The plan builds on the ambitions laid out in the water industry’s recently published 21st Century Rivers report, illustrating how the ten actions for change called for in that declaration can be delivered locally. 

Each water company has committed to: 

1. Ensure storm overflows and sewage treatment works do not harm rivers

  • Based on Environment Agency measures (Reasons for Not Achieving Good Ecological Status*), we will ensure our operations will not be the reason for unhealthy rivers by 2030. 
  • We will reduce the use of storm overflows to an average of 20 per year by 2025.

2. Create more opportunities for everyone to enjoy our region's rivers

  • Within 10 years, 90% of the population in these regions will live within an hour’s drive of a bathing site.
  • More opportunities created across the regions for canoeists, anglers and recreational events.

3. Support others to improve and care for rivers

  • Collectively launch a new deal for farmers this spring to incentivise regenerative farming practices and provide access to green financing; as well as new partnerships with the agriculture sector.
  • Campaign for the removal of the automatic right to connect for new developments, i.e., building new homes.
  • Champion the Bill to ban wet wipes.
  • Use convening powers to help others address their contribution to river health. 

4. Enhance our rivers and create new habitats so wildlife can thrive

  • Across both companies this will include examples such as: Severn Trent establishing new habitats for native species of wildlife, such as great crested newts, beavers, otters and cuckoos across the Midlands; Anglian Water will work in partnership with others to re-introduce several iconic fish species. 

5. Be open and transparent about our performance and our plans

  • Both companies will work with NGOs, to ensure they provide the information people want and need to see to accurately judge river health.
  • Companies will also make sure this information is easily accessible via their individual websites by end of 2022.

The pledges that Severn Trent and Anglian Water have confirmed are designed to provide water companies with a framework on which to build their own operational and environmental plans.

Liv Garfield, Severn Trent CEO, said: “Although we have improved the health of our rivers significantly in the last 30 years, there is much more to do to make our regions’ rivers the healthiest they can be.  We listened to our communities and wider stakeholders and understand the need for us to take the lead on river health. We must go further to do the right thing. 

“The only way to make a real difference is to identify clear and actionable commitments and provide real transparency on our progress. We cannot do this alone, we need everyone to understand their role in river health. That is why we are committed to redoubling our own efforts and investment to help others reduce their impact as well as our own.”

Peter Simpson CEO for Anglian Water said: “We share the ambitions of our customers, and their expectation that our rivers should be beautiful places, rich in nature.  We’ve come a long way since privatisation in protecting the environment and helping it to flourish – today marks an evolution in our promise and will see us go even further.

“As the Environment Bill became the Environment Act, we made it clear we felt even more action was needed to ensure the future health of our rivers – by coming together as an industry, securing the right investment as part of the regulatory process, and working collaboratively with other sectors. We firmly believe in the power of collaboration to solve big challenges which is why it’s vital we bring the right people together. Get River Positive is the start of a movement, of tangible action that will deliver the changes we all want to see.”

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