B2: Serious pollution incidents to water

Final Final

Short description

This indicator shows changes in the number of pollution incidents impacting on water health, including in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, canals, coasts, estuaries and groundwater. Serious pollution incidents are a pressure on the water environment. The Environment Agency uses 4 categories to determine the severity of pollution incidents. The indicator shows the number of events in each year that are in the 2 higher categories (category 1, major and category 2, significant), for example, causing death of fish, potential harm to bathers, or the temporary cessation of abstraction from a river by a drinking water provider.

Data are already published annually by the Environment Agency: Pollution incidents data and in Section 5 of the Water and Sewerage Companies in England environmental performance report; longer-term trends are available in the State of the environment: water quality report and the Regulating for people, the environment and growth report.

Trend description

The total number of serious pollution incidents to water in England has fallen from 427 in 2009 to 266 in 2019, a drop of 38%. Category 2 (significant) incidents decreased from 361 in 2009 to 225 in 2019; category 1 (major) incidents decreased from 66 to 41 over the same 10-year period.


Choose categories from the dropdowns below to see different breakdowns of the data. Some will not be available until a higher level is chosen.

This table provides metadata for the interim or final indicator presented above.

Indicator name

Serious pollution incidents to water

Indicator reference


Outcome Indicator Framework theme


Headline indicator status

Not applicable

Relevant goal(s) in the 25 Year Environment Plan
  • Clean and plentiful water
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
Relevant target(s) in the 25 Year Environment Plan
  • No specific target
Position in the natural capital framework
  • Pressure on natural capital assets
Related reporting commitments
  • Domestically under the Environment Act 1995
  • Relevant under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6
Geographic scope

England; data for individual incidents at any geographical scale are also available.

Status of indicator development


Date last updated

11 June 2021