WATER quality on the stretch of the River Severn in the county is improving, according to the Environment Agency.

David Hudson spoke out after media reports quoted the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) saying rivers are "used as open sewers".

The River Severn was given as an example after a swimmer was taken ill after 'swallowing sewage.'

Mr Hudson, from the Environment Agency, said: “Water quality is now better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution, largely due to the work of the Environment Agency and the £25 billion of investment that we have required water companies to make.

“To sustain this improvement, we are taking robust enforcement action against those who pollute our waters and in the last four years nationally we have prosecuted water companies 40 times with fines totalling £33 million.

“But we are not complacent.

"Climate change and population growth are adding to the pressures on water and this is a big challenge for all of us – landowners, regulators, businesses, government and society as a whole.”

The status of our waterways is based on the European Union’s Water Framework Directive.

Under the directive a waterway can only be rated as ‘good’ if all elements in it are rated as good.

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A number of different elements are considered when assessing water quality including: number of fish and invertebrates, chemicals in the water and the availability of water.

The current ecological rating is ‘moderate’ while the chemical element has been rated as ‘good’.

The Environmental Agency are also calling for caution for open water swimmers.

Mr Hudson added: “While water quality is now better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution, we advise all swimmers to use our designated bathing waters. The River Severn is not a designated bathing water nor are any of its tributaries."