Main content

Sold Down River

John Waite investigates how an outdated licensing framework that provides us with cheap water is costing rivers dearly.

Our tap water costs less than a tenth of a penny per litre. Most of it comes from rivers. A licensing system designed more than half a century ago means water companies can legally, and easily, extract large quantities of good quality water from water courses to deliver cheaply to the consumer. But, as John Waite reveals, it's the environment that is all too often paying the price for our low water bills. In this week's Face the Facts, we hear why the country's water framework is in desperate need of reform. As climate change and a growing population puts water supplies under increasing pressure, John investigates an outdated licensing system which is depleting many water courses. He hears of the 'lamentable stewardship' of iconic chalk streams, some of which now run completely dry; the missed opportunity in the recent Water Bill to tackle the long-known problem of over abstraction, and the dilemma facing the government and the water companies - put prices up to pay for costly alternatives, or let rivers pay the price?

Available now

26 minutes

‘Filthy trickle’

‘Filthy trickle’
The once flowing River Beane

‘Lamentable stewardship’

‘Lamentable stewardship’

John with the Angling Trust’s Martin Salter – standing in the Mimram

Restoring Rivers

Restoring Rivers
The River Darent in Kent after Environment Agency improvements

Broadcasts