Pollution and growing demand for water are putting valuable groundwater supplies in England and Wales at risk according to the Environment Agency.

Releasing a report today into the state of our groundwater, Environment Protection Director Tricia Henton said: "To many of us, groundwater is out of sight and out of mind. But this hidden resource, which provides clean, fresh water for our homes, industry, agriculture and the environment, is a limited resource that must be properly managed and protected."

"Groundwater is very vulnerable to pollution and while it takes just a few careless moments to pollute or contaminate, it can take decades or even centuries to recover. That’s why we need to do what we can to stop it from being polluted in the first place."

Problems with groundwater quality cost the UK water industry some £754 million between 1975 and 2004. Poor water quality has led to the closure of 146 groundwater sources over the past 30 years leading to the loss of at least 425, 000 cubic metres of water a day - enough to supply nearly 3 million people, equivalent to the population of Wales.

"In some parts of the country people take and use a lot of groundwater and in the future, it’s likely to be under even more pressure from more homes. Demand for water could be a real problem unless we improve water efficiency. Our research shows more than one quarter of groundwater sources in England are at risk of failing new objectives to be set under the EU Water Framework Directive because of abstraction pressures."