The UK Government's Plan for Water

2 minute read

Picking up plastic bottle on a beach Triocean

Clean Seas Team

4 Apr 2023

The UK Government has just released its Plan for Water for England. The Plan outlines various issues impacting the state of England's waters, including chemicals, sewage and plastic. Here, we look at what the Plan means for our seas.

Addressing chemical pollution and PFAS

We're pleased to see PFAS included in the Plan for Water. These ‘forever chemicals’ have been ignored for too long, and the acknowledgment by the UK Government that they are a risk for the water environment is a step in the right direction.

There are also commitments looking at restricting certain uses of PFAS. These are covered in more detail in the PFAS Regulatory Management Options Analysis (RMOA) published by UK REACH, and will apply to Great Britain, not just England. Although these commitments are welcome, they do not go far enough. We must ensure urgent action is taken on all PFAS to move towards a PFAS-free economy.

As with any of these things, the devil is in the detail. We'll be working through the RMOA in the coming days to analyse the proposals for PFAS management.

We need to ensure that we move towards a PFAS-free economy as a matter of urgency, to properly protect the environment and us.

Dr Francesca Ginley, Policy and Advocacy Manager (Chemicals)

Our Stop Ocean Poison campaign is calling on the UK Government to properly protect the environment from the impacts of chemical pollution, by implementing a ban on avoidable uses of 'forever chemicals.

Will you sign our #StopOceanPoison petition?

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Wiping out plastic in wet wipes

The UK Government also announced another consultation for banning plastic in wet wipes. It sounds progressive, but there has already been a “Call for Evidence” (in November 2021), the same time they consulted on bans on other single-use items.

Our campaigning with high street retailers means that most have already removed plastic from their own wet wipes. It will be another a year or so after the consultation process that a ban would come into force.

Sadly, data gathered by our volunteers shows that wet wipe pollution remains a problem across the UK and is, in fact, increasing. You can read more about what our volunteers found in 2022 in our latest report.

While legislation to ban plastic in wet wipes is welcome, most of us won’t see any change in the shops because most retailers have already removed plastic, thanks to our campaign work. Removing the plastic isn’t going to stop wet wipes appearing on our shores.

Dr Laura Foster, Head of Clean Seas



litter recorded in 2022 was sewage-related



most common plastic item was wet wipes in 2022

Tackling sewage pollution

Today’s announcement highlights spending on big infrastructure investment, as well as the fact that companies can face unlimited fines for dumping sewage. Yet in the Plan, by the Government's own admission, “regulators are undertaking the largest investigation in history into water company compliance with environmental law.”

Last year, there were over 300,000 spills in England. Although a decrease on previous years, an Environment Agency Director commented that “the decrease in spills in 2022 is largely down to dry weather, not water company action.”

The UK Government's plans for addressing discharges in England are outlined in the Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan.

We're co-claimants on a legal case against the UK Government because we think its current Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan will fail to protect our coasts and seas. The plans issued today do not address our concerns.

You can read more about the impacts of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) on England's Marine Protected Areas, and our work on the issue of sewage pollution, in this update.

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