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#EndSewagePollutionCoalition releases 2021 Water Quality Report

Last week Surfers Against Sewage, one of British Canoeing's partners in the #EndSewagePollution Coalition, released their 2021 Water Quality Report which released further evidence of the sewage pollution plaguing the UK's sea and rivers.

The findings categorically show that water companies are increasing the discharge of harmful amounts of sewage into the environment with devastating consequences to the health of people and planet – all whilst they claim that improvements are being made. Our report uncovers that:

  • 5,517 sewage discharge notifications were issued by water companies over a 12-month period, an increase of 87.6%.

  • 3,328 of these discharge notifications were issued throughout the bathing season.

  • One in six days have been rendered ‘unswimmable’ due to sewage pollution during the official bathing season alone.

  • One in three reports of sickness after bathing were correlated with a pollution event in the corresponding area.

  • Currently only 14% of UK rivers are deemed to have ‘good’ ecological status.

  • Six out of eight rivers tested pose a continuous serious risk to human health.

These findings come just days after the shocking announcement that water companies are at the centre of a major investigation by financial and environmental watchdogs the Environment Agency and Ofwat after admitting they may have illegally released untreated sewage into rivers and waterways. 

The public outrage of the #SewageScandal saw almost 30,000 emails being sent to MPs via our #EndSewagePollution campaign action and this people powered surge led to a much stronger Environment Act than government tried to pass. We now have requirements on water companies to: provide real-time year-round data; report annually on sewer discharges; monitor water up and down stream of sewer overflows; and for government to put in place an action plan to address sewage pollution. And, most importantly of all, government was forced to u-turn so that there is now a legal duty for water companies to progressively reduce the adverse impacts of discharges  from sewer overflows on the environment and public health.

However, our fight is by no means over. We have momentum, the water companies are on the back-foot, we must keep up the pressure to #EndSewagePollution for good.

Chantelle Grundy, Access & Environment Officer, said: “The shocking scale of sewage pollution in the  waters we love to paddle continues to be revealed.  We need to keep the pressure on government, Ofwat, The Environment Agency, Water Companies and others to ensure the discharge of untreated sewage and other chemicals into our inland and coastal waters ends.

"We want everyone to see these beautiful places flourish and thrive once more with wildlife and people.”

British Canoeing will continue to campaign for sewage free waters for all to enjoy paddle sport through our Clear Access, Clear Waters campaign and though membership of the #EndSewagePollution Coalition.

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