In a new report, the Environmental Audit Committee said only 14 per cent of English rivers meet good ecological status because of chronic under-investment.

It also uncovered “multiple failures in the monitoring, governance and enforcement on water quality”, with committee chairman Philip Dunne stressing that the government, regulators, and the water industry have allowed a “Victorian sewerage system to buckle under increasing pressure”.

High levels of toxins such as phosphorus and nitrogen, from sewage and animal waste, are “choking rivers” and “suffocating fish and plants”.

Members of the committee, including Dunne, have now called for more enforcement against polluters and a public awareness campaign.

“Monitoring regimes need to be reviewed, enforcement needs to be ramped up and public awareness needs boosting on what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet,” said Dunne. “So many emerging pollutants are being missed by inadequate monitoring, and court...

Robert Heaton