Sewage in Our Rivers

This week you might have seen lots of news coverage about raw sewage in our rivers and waterways.


Here is a quick recap on this issue, the controversial bill that is making its way through parliament and the recent progress made towards our vision of wild, healthy, natural rivers.


Water companies are very occasionally allowed to discharge untreated sewage from storm overflows into rivers and waterways to prevent flooding streets and houses. However, the problem is that this doesn’t happen very occasionally at all. In fact, it happened 403,171 times in England during 2020!


The environment bill contains some measures to protect Britain’s waterways from sewage. However, MPs have been criticised after trying to block a House of Lords amendment which would require sewerage companies to “demonstrate improvements in the sewerage systems and progressive reductions in the harm caused by untreated sewage discharges.”


The good news!

This week two crucial steps have been taken in our journey towards healthier rivers.

  1. The government has announced that they will introduce a new duty, enshrined in law, to ensure that water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharge from storm overflows

  2. A strengthened majority has voted in favour of the Duke of Wellington’s amendment to the Environment Bill in the House of Lords (213 in favour and 60 against)

Whilst we still need to wait for the specific wording of this new clause to see what real impact it will have; we can still celebrate the fact that so many people have united to fight for the future of our rivers!


What about your local river?

Did you know that the Rivers Trust has an interactive map that allows you to see where raw sewage has been reported and recorded entering our rivers? Explore below to see storm overflows in your local river but be warned: you might not like what you discover!





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