Water pollution is the contamination of streams, lakes, underground water or the sea by substances harmful to living things. The major water pollutants are chemical, biological or physical materials that degrade water quality.

Water pollutants can result from many human activities, for example:

  • residential communities contribute mostly sewage, mixed with traces of household chemicals
  • industrial pollutants may enter water sources from the outfall pipes of factories or may leak from pipelines and underground storage tanks
  • sometimes industries discharge pollutants into city sewers, increasing the variety of pollutants in urban areas
  • polluted water may flow from mines where the water has leached through mineral-rich rocks or has been contaminated by the chemicals used in processing the ores
  • pollutants from farms and pastures contribute animal wastes, agricultural chemicals and sediment from erosion.

Report water pollution

The Environment Agency is the regulator for water and is responsible for maintaining or improving the quality of fresh, marine, surface and underground water in England and Wales.

If you're concerned about pollution in a river, stream or pond:

Responsibility for water quality

Mains water

The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is responsible for assessing the quality of drinking water in England and Wales, taking enforcement action if standards are not being met and appropriate action when water is unfit for human consumption.

Private water supplies

The Private Water Supplies (England) Regulations 2016 require the local authority to carry out risk assessments, investigations and quality checks on specific areas of private water supply. 

If you believe that your home or business is served by a private water supply or a private distribution system and you're experiencing a problem or would like any further information, phone 01634 333 333.

For general advice on private water supplies, visit the DWI website.