Home NewsEurope Raw sewage polluting 40% of rivers in England and Wales

Raw sewage polluting 40% of rivers in England and Wales

A new report published by WWF-UK says 40% of rivers in England and Wales are being regularly polluted by raw sewage and is calling for urgent action by the UK Government and water industry regulator Ofwat.

The report – ‘Flushed Away’ – is the result of a nine-month investigation by the environmental NGO into the state of rivers in England and Wales and the entire sewerage system, how it works, its capacity, infrastructure and governance

WWF-UK said the report provides a river health check and reveals that, “shockingly, 55% of our failing rivers are polluted with sewage. ….about 40% of all our rivers in England and Wales.”

According to the report, the pressures vary across the country but the water industry along with agriculture are the main sectors responsible for failing river health.

Although the water industry has recently “made great strides” in cleaning up pollution from beaches, sewage remains one of the main pollutants in English and Welsh rivers.

More people, more rain, more development and insufficient investment mean that……things are not as good as is often claimed, the report says.  In WWF-UK ‘s view, the research has revealed a “sewerage system on the edge” which is ill-equipped to protect people and nature in the face of tough challenges ahead.

There are over 18,000 sewer overflows across England and Wales – and about 90% of them discharge raw sewage (mixed with rainwater) directly into rivers. Although overflows are supposed to happen only during extreme rainfall, to prevent sewage backing up into homes, WWF-UK found that 8-14% of overflows are spilling sewage into rivers at least once a week, and between a third and a half at least once a month.

WWF-UK is now calling on the government to ensure that every aspect of the EU Water Framework Directive and Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive are transposed in full into law in England and Wales and sanctions established to enforce implementation after the UK leaves the European Union. The 2027 deadline to achieve good ecological status in all waterbodies must also be met.

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