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  • by Karma Loveday

Surfers' group reports 88% surge in sewage discharges

Surfers Against Sewage’s (SAS) has accused water companies of increasing the sewage discharges into the water environment, “whilst they claim that improvements are being made”.


In its annual water quality report for 2021 SAS headlined:


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

• 3,328 of these were during the bathing season. One in six days were “rendered ‘unswimmable’” due to sewage pollution” during the official bathing season; and

• one in three reports of sickness after bathing were correlated with a pollution event in the corresponding area. Six out of eight rivers tested pose a continuous serious risk to human health.


SAS also said: "Our report also throws into question the classification system used by regulators to indicate the quality of designated bathing waters. We’ve found a higher average number of sewer overflow discharges notifications at locations classified as ‘excellent’ and ‘good’ than locations classified ‘sufficient’ and ‘poor’. This is opposite to the expected trend, suggesting that bathing water classified as ‘excellent’ and ‘good’ may in fact be experiencing significant sewage pollution.”


SAS congratulated the “army of citizen scientists” fuelling action online, in Parliament and beyond by submitting health reports via its Safer Seas & Rivers Service app.


A spokesperson for Water UK said: “Water companies recognise the urgent need for action to protect and enhance our rivers and seas. Our recent 21st Century Rivers report sets out the key steps needed to achieve the radical changes we all want to see, including calling on government to bring forward legislation in a new Rivers Act that will provide greater protection for rivers in law.”

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